Blooms of toxic algae in the oceans and fresh water bodies has become a serious concern for Floridians. St. Petersburg College Natural Sciences Professor Dr. Monica Lara appeared in the PBS documentary series Changing Seas to talk about the problems that tie into these blooms. The episode, titled Toxic Algal Blooms, aired on June 19 and is now available online. The documentary explores the causes and repercussions of these events.
After the BP oil spill, Lara, who teaches at the Clearwater Campus, and her students began monitoring fish and invertebrate populations and noticed a large decline after a red tide event. On this episode, Lara discussed the red tide events off our local coastal waters and what she and her students have observed.
“We were monitoring artificial reefs and natural ledges,” Lara said. “Using baseline data after a red tide years ago, we noticed a lot of invertebrates had died, so we started looking more closely. In some places, there was nothing – it was eerily quiet.”
Lara says toxic algae goes way beyond red tide events and occurs in different ways across the state.
“We have red tide, the east coast has a lot of brown algae, which is those piles of rotting seaweed you see on the beach,” Lara said.”That seaweed is actually from the Amazon, which means that something is killing it there and it is traveling here, illustrating what a global problem this is.”
Lara also served on the expert panel, answering questions from the public at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School, and served on a panel on Tuesday, June 18 at Nova Southeastern University in Dania Beach. She is on a mission to educate the public – not in a report that only a scientist could decipher, but in a way that everyone can grasp.
“Funding for research depends on state and federal government funding,” she said. “Change must be made to prevent the bacterias that create the algae. It’s a global problem; a climate change problem; a pollution problem. Once people are informed, they can be activists and vote for people who will help bring change.”