FWC News Release
Contacts: Carli Segelson, FWC 727-896-8626
Sean C. Ledig, USF 813-974-9079

The University of South Florida (USF) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) announce the establishment of the Center for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University’s College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg. The center will develop, test and implement models to forecast Florida red tide conditions.

A five-year, $1.25 million contract from FWRI will help finance the center that will assist the state’s red tide monitoring program. USF is matching the state’s contribution with a $400,000 computer cluster along with staff support for the center.

Florida red tides are natural phenomena caused by a microscopic organism, “Karenia brevis.” “K. brevis” produces a toxin that can kill fish, birds and marine mammals, such as dolphins and manatees. Also, it can cause respiratory problems in people.

The factors contributing to red tide formation and persistence in Florida are extremely complex. Oceanic currents, nutrients, weather and interactions among numerous marine algae species contribute to bloom conditions.

CPR will combine information from multiple sources including FWRI red tide monitoring data; USF water circulation, temperature, salinity and other information; satellite imagery; and models to develop forecasting capabilities for red tide conditions and impacts.

Initially, water circulation models combined with red tide cell counts will yield short-term forecasts based on projections of particle movements. The initial forecast capabilities will be refined through ongoing research and development of coupled physical/biological models, with results eventually being incorporated into FWRI’s weekly red tide status reports. CPR researchers also use satellite imagery to identify areas of red tide blooms within Florida coastal waters, helping the state target monitoring efforts.

"For the first time, the Center for Prediction of Red Tides will pull together biological, chemical and physical scientific expertise and couple it with advanced computing power to model factors contributing to red tide formation across all appropriate spatial scales,” said Gil McRae, FWRI director.

The long-term goal of this collaborative partnership is to create a routine capability to predict Florida red tides and their potential impacts. In the future, biological models that address factors such as bloom growth, when coupled with the physical models and supported by additional observations, will improve the predictability of bloom evolution from beginning to end.

“As a comprehensive research university within an urban setting, a USF goal is the application of science for the benefit of Florida’s citizens,” said Peter R. Betzer, dean of USF’s College of Marine Science. “CPR is an important step in this process. The same CPR red tide prediction tools can be applied to fisheries management, navigation, search and rescue, and other ocean matters of urban societal concern.”

To learn more about FWRI’s red tide research program, visit http://research.MyFWC.com/redtide