UF Center for Coastal Solutions Awarded Multi-Institution Grant To Study Harmful Algal Blooms (Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment)

UF Center for Coastal Solutions Awarded Multi-Institution Grant To Study Harmful Algal Blooms

University of Florida Center for Coastal Solutions (CCS) Associate Director David Kaplan, Ph.D., and a team of CCS-affiliated scientists and engineers from UF, the University of South Florida, North Carolina State University and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation have received $2.3 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study how water and nutrients flowing from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River watershed interact with tides, currents, and waves at the coast to affect coastal water quality.

Severe freshwater and marine harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Florida’s lakes, rivers and estuaries have resulted in tremendous environmental and economic damages in recent years. In southwest Florida, blooms are becoming more frequent, more damaging, and longer-lasting, threatening the health and well-being of coastal communities. The goal of this project is to develop data- and model-supported guidance for water management to prevent or reduce the impact of harmful algal blooms across the region, which responds to an increasing call for more scientifically supported water- and nutrient-management strategies, particularly for Lake Okeechobee.

“It’s really only by bringing together such a disciplinarily diverse, collaborative, and creative group of scientists and engineers,” said Dr. Kaplan, an associate professor in the UF Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment (ESSIE). “Notably, this is the first time that models of the lake, watershed, and estuary hydrology and hydrodynamics will be coupled together to understand harmful algal bloom formation, persistence, and decline.” The model will span from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River estuary and will be used to understand whether Lake Okeechobee discharges can be planned for less ecologically vulnerable time periods or to “flush out” harmful algal species from the river and estuary.

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