Postdoc Spotlight: Siddhesh Tirodkar

Postdoc Spotlight: Siddhesh Tirodkar

How Ocean Movement Impacts Harmful Algal Blooms

Understanding how water and currents move in the ocean is just another piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling the harmful algal bloom (HABs) issue in Florida, according to Siddhesh Tirodkar, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

When microscopic algae, called phytoplankton, grow out of control in the ocean or freshwater lakes they produce blooms. Some of the algae in these blooms are toxic and can kill fish, mammals, birds and cause harm to people. They can also use up all the oxygen in the water, smother corals, pile up and rot on beaches and contaminate drinking water. Understanding more about these blooms is at the forefront of a lot of oceanographic research in hopes of finding better ways to prevent, predict and monitor them.

For his postdoctoral research, Tirodkar is developing an ocean circulation model to simulate the current in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits, including two connected major components: the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Current in the Florida Straits, he said. Then, he can understand more about how these two currents work and impact the ocean, such as creating eddies, which are “circular yet powerful water movements,” Tirodkar said. Combining the model with other data on ocean chemistry and biology will provide deeper understanding about algal blooms and how they develop and move or spread, he said.

Many factors contribute to blooms, from the oceanography of a region to the nutrients from deep ocean and watersheds. The data from models “is important to the decision-making of marine ecosystems and resource management,” he said.

Tirodkar earned his doctorate in climate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (ITT Bombay). One day during his studies, he attended a seminar given by a professor who works at Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch, which put it on his radar. Later, after graduating and while searching for a postdoctoral position in 2022, he saw an opening and decided to apply. “Luckily I got accepted,” he said.

His postdoctoral position at Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch is his first work experience outside India. He earned a master’s in energy engineering and a three-year bachelor’s degree in information technology, both from the University of Mumbai, India. He also earned a bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering from the Aeronautical Society of India.

“After completing my Ph.D. at IIT Bombay, I wanted to explore the research opportunities and educational patterns outside India. I wanted to explore the differences in research and educational approaches of international institutes,” Tirodkar said. “This opportunity at Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch benefits me because it allows me to look at the research culture in the United States. People here are wonderful, and the research is very collaborative. U.S. research institutes are also rich in research resources, including instrumentation and computing. People are happy to share their thoughts and help to identify and resolve research difficulties.”

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