Mote testing new method to kill red tide algae across the Suncoast

Researchers create a slurry that may possible kill harmful, toxic red tide causing algae
Researchers create a slurry that may possible kill harmful, toxic red tide causing algae(Mote)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is keeping a close on a bloom of Florida red tide along the coast in Tampa and Sarasota Bay.

The bloom has increased in severity and has caused respiratory irritation and widespread fish kills at local beaches.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative, led by Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is developing the tools and technologies to mitigate red tide and decrease the impacts on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida. During the first two years of this six-year Initiative, over 25 projects are already underway.

In response to the current bloom event, researchers from Mote, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and UtCF, have come together to rapidly deploy and test the ability of clay dispersal to remove cells and toxins, a mitigation strategy used in other settings around the world to control other types of harmful algae blooms. 

Florida red tides are caused by the overabundance of cells of native species of algae, Karenia brevis.

Clay mitigation involves spraying the surface of the water with a slurry of modified clay particles and seawater, and as the dense clay particles sink they combine with red tide cells. This process can kill the cells and also bury them in the sediment on the seafloor.

Dry clay material was mixed with seawater to create a slurry, which was then dispersed over the water in the study area with hoses. A screen was placed into the water on one end of the canal, and water samples were taken on both sides to compare the treatment area with non-treated areas. 

“As we’re looking for mitigation strategies for red tide, we’re not only looking at the water quality impacts of treatment options, we’re also looking for potential impacts on the benthic and fish communities,” said Dr. Kristy Lewis, co-Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor in UCF’s Department of Biology, National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. “Florida is really leading the way in the United States in utilizing decades of red tide research and monitoring to deliver innovative technologies that can be deployed to decrease the impacts of the HABs in our environment, economy and quality of life,” said Mote President & CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “We’re still in the early stages of this six-year Initiative, yet we’re already able to have early-stage technology ready to rapidly deploy for field testing. That’s the power of science, and how by bringing together the best and brightest minds, we can create solutions to help our communities.”

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