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Working on Solutions to Environmental Concerns

10/18/2018

Working on Solutions to Environmental Concerns

Ocean/environmental science is a key area of focus for FAU, and we continue to work toward solutions to two of South Florida’s most pressing environmental problems: toxic algae and sea level rise. At our northernmost campus, FAU Harbor Branch researchers continue to study the toxic blue-green algae that is plaguing many parts of our waterways. FAU Harbor Branch Director Dr. Jim Sullivan and research scientist Dr. William Louda are studying the role of nutrients, their sources, and how they contribute to the severity of harmful algae blooms (HABs). Researchers also are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the impact of algae toxins on human health, especially those in close proximity to the St. Lucie River. So far, everyone tested was found to have at least a small amount of the toxin in their nose. Further research will help to determine the public health risks.

In addition to the harmful blue-green algae blooms, southeastern Florida also is facing a potential red tide crisis. Red tide is responsible for many fish, sea turtle and marine mammal deaths on Florida’s Gulf coast, but it rarely makes its way to Florida’s Atlantic coast. Recently, however, it was discovered in patches from the Treasure Coast all the way down to Miami-Dade County, causing throat, eye and skin irritation in beachgoers and lifeguards, and leading to the temporary closure of several local beaches. FAU Harbor Branch researchers are serving as a resource to state and federal agencies, lawmakers and the community at large on both blue-green algae and red tide, providing up-to-date information and scientific analysis. Over the past few weeks, FAU Harbor Branch hosted Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Brian Mast and several state and local elected officials for briefings on the algae blooms. Dr. Malcolm McFarland recently was featured on CBS Evening News to discuss the causes and impact of a red tide outbreak. Click here to watch the segment.

Last week, FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies welcomed Rep. Ted Deutch to our Ft. Lauderdale campus to discuss sea level rise, human adaptation to it, and climate change – which is exacerbating the problem. South Florida is in the midst of king tide season, when we see the highest tides of the year, leading to extensive flooding in both coastal and inland cities. FAU student Bridget Huston received some media attention for her study comparing flood maps to people’s accounts of what the flooding actually looks like in their area. Click here to read more about her research. The descriptions Bridget is receiving will help identify where we are currently resilient, where we’re not, and which areas need more attention.

South Florida is faced with tremendous environmental challenges, and FAU researchers are working with Unbridled Ambition® to find solutions. If you’d like to help support our efforts, click here to donate to our Harmful Algal Bloom studies.

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 Last Modified 10/18/18