Experts Available on Impacts of Lake Okeechobee Discharge

Heavy rainfall led to the release of billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River, which is damaging the delicate balance of freshwater and saltwater in surrounding estuaries.

Ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee are damaging the delicate balance of freshwater and saltwater in surrounding estuaries. These discharges also are linked to toxic algal blooms like Microcystis (green bacteria) and Karenia brevis (red tides), as well as non-toxic blooms such as the red drift macroalgae blooms that make water unsafe for humans as well as marine animals.


By gisele-galoustian | 3/3/2016

An El Niño winter which brought record rainfall in January has been threatening the ecological health of the St. Lucie River in southeast Florida. Rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more than 30 billion gallons of water into the St. Lucie River, which connects Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean primarily through the St. Lucie inlet.

Late last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie and Lee counties. Ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee are damaging the delicate balance of freshwater and saltwater in surrounding estuaries. These discharges also are linked to toxic algal blooms like Microcystis (green bacteria) and Karenia brevis (red tides), as well as non-toxic blooms such as the red drift macroalgae blooms that make water unsafe for humans as well as marine animals.

Florida Atlantic University researchers are available to discuss various topics involving the Lake Okeechobee discharge and its impacts on the region. 

 

  • Dale Gawlik, Ph.D., professor and director of FAU’s Environmental Science Program within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has expertise in avian ecology, wetland ecosystems, and restoration ecology that includes the study of habitats of wading birds in South Florida. Wading birds have been used as indicators of the health and function of the Everglades ecosystem.

 

  • Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D., research professor and director of education at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is an expert on marine ecosystem health. His research interests are in marine plants, especially seagrasses and seaweeds, and coral reef ecology. Hanisak leads the Indian River Lagoon Observatory programs, which includes a network of monitoring stations that continuously collect water-quality information, which is posted in real-time at http://fau.loboviz.com/.

 

  • Brian Lapointe, Ph.D., research professor at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is an algal physiologist and biochemist with research expertise in seagrass and coral reef ecology, marine bio-invasions, harmful algal blooms, and marine conservation. He researches the causes and consequences of excessive nutrients and algal growth in freshwater and marine environments, using techniques that identify the nutrient(s) fueling the growth, which aids identification of sources and solutions. He studies the macroalgae Sargassum and the complex ecosystem it hosts in the Gulf of Mexico, Sargasso Sea, and Caribbean region.

 

  • Colin Polsky, Ph.D.,director of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU, oversees the Center’s vision to improve Florida’s sustainability through research, education and outreach on ecology, climate change, and society. CES is a state university research center that was established in July 1994 by Florida’s State University System’s Board of Regents. CES’ environmental research and education efforts focus on the Kissimmee River Restoration Project and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the largest river and ecosystem restorations in the world.  

 

  • Ed Proffitt, Ph.D., biology professor at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has conducted extensive research on estuaries, coasts, and aquatic animals, most recently publishing results of his study on the health of St. Lucie River oysters. He has expertise in ecology of marine and estuarine macrophytes and invertebrates.

 

  • Adam Schaefer, M.P.H., research coordinator and epidemiologist at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, studies the relationships between marine mammal, human, and environmental health, embodied by the idea that illness in dolphins can shed light on environmental problems that may affect other species including humans.

-FAU-

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