As a Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, I get many questions about red tide and requests to present on this topic. The number of inquiries regarding red tide intensifies during periods when harmful algal blooms are occurring, just like now.
Regardless of when I am contacted, some questions are easier to answer; questions such as: What is red tide? What causes red tide? Or, where can I check the status of red tide in Florida? And there is good information out there covering these types of questions, including a great blog about red tide, published by some of my colleagues at Florida Sea Grant.
Soon, we might have an answer for another question: Is there anything we can do to control red tide?
Dr. Kristy Lewis, assistant professor of biology at the University of Central Florida, and Dr. Emily Hall, senior scientist and program manager with Mote Marine Laboratory, are among a group of scientists testing in the field a mitigation technology called “clay flocculation.” This technique uses a clay solution to attract and bind red tide cells together, and sink the clusters to the bottom.
The study uses a series of limnocorrals, devices that allow isolating columns of water on site. The group places limnocorrals on a body of water affected by red tide and then sprays the structures with the clay solution. They then measure the number of red tide cells removed from the water column, as counted inside each limnocorral.
For a quick look at how they spray the clay solution, please check this clay flocculation study video.
This is the first time that this technology has been tested in Florida outside the lab and in a body of water actively affected by red tide. Though we do not yet have final results of this study, the results seem very promising. And, with my role helping to get out word of this study, I wanted to share that this extremely important research is underway.
We expect to have final results soon. So, check this space regularly for the latest news.