Red Tide app allows citizen-scientists to help document its spread

Even with Red Tide showing up only in background levels along Florida’s coast, maintaining a close watch as water continues to warm up will be critical. A new smartphone app from Mote Marine Laboratory allows users to report when and where they experience respiratory irritation or see discolored water or dead fish — all potential indications of Florida Red Tide. This summer and later, Mote scientists plan to add multiple other reportable environmental conditions beyond Red Tide impacts.

“We’re doing this to obtain new data streams while empowering the public and putting the reporting in their hands,” said Tracy Fanara, manager of Mote’s environmental health program. “We care about public health and enjoyment of Florida’s ecosystems.”

The new app — available at no charge for iOS and Android phones — is designed to enhance and complement existing Red Tide resources for the public, including major efforts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Mote, and the University of South Florida.

Like Mote’s current volunteers, the general public can use the app to share their observations of conditions potentially related to Red Tide, increasing the rapid transfer of information that could show Red Tide is spreading.

Populations of Red Tide, a naturally occurring algae, can explode, causing allergies and asthma in beachgoers and killing fish and marine mammals like manatees and dolphin. Scientists still don’t understand exactly what causes the massive outbreaks, but they are likely to be made worse and last longer when they get close to shore where nutrients like those from fertilizer and the use of fossil fuels are generally higher.

Mote scientists encourage Gulf beachgoers to download the app from the App Store or Google Play and begin reporting now — ahead of late summer and early fall — the likeliest time for Red Tide blooms. Red Tide updates are available weekly at http://myfwc.com/REDTIDESTATUS.

For questions, concerns, troubleshooting or other feedback about the early-stage app, please email info@mote.org with “App feedback” in the subject line.

 

To learn more about Red Tide, check out previous Bay Soundings stories:

Originally published July 2017

 

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