Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium: Newsday@Mote: Red Tide Update; Mote is Tops on TripAdvisor; Mote’s Upcoming Events

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Hayley Rutger, hrutger@mote.org, 941-374-0081

Red Tide Update

Robots Help Researchers, Forecasters
Monitor Bloom

Dr. L. Kellie Dixon points out the red-tide detector (called an optical phytoplankton discriminator or “BreveBuster”) carried by an underwater robot operated by Mote Marine Laboratory on Aug. 5. On Aug. 1, Mote sent its underwater robot, “Waldo,” out to study the offshore bloom of Florida red tide in collaboration with the University of South Florida’s robot, “Bass.” The robots remain on patrol as of Aug. 5.
Download high-res photos of the Mote and USF underwater robots’ deployment Aug. 1 and Mote scientist Dr. L Kellie Dixon with a Mote robot and red tide detector on Aug. 5. (Credit photos to Mote Marine Laboratory and please don’t post this link publicly.)
Underwater robots “Waldo” from Mote Marine Laboratory and “Bass” from University of South Florida (USF) have been hard at work monitoring the offshore bloom of Florida red tide and surrounding ocean conditions since they were deployed on Aug. 1. Their results are helping shape short-term bloom forecasts.

The bloom was recently reported to be 80 miles long and 50 miles wide, reaching from Dixie County to southern Pasco County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) statewide update on Aug. 1.

Robot results:
During the past few days, the robots have reported:

  • Waldo: At 40 miles from the Pasco/Hernando border, red tide was detected at the surface and to depths of about 25 meters (82 feet) in areas where it was indicated by satellites.
  • Bass: At the outer edge of the bloom, elevated chlorophyll associated with the red tide was present in waters as deep as 40 meters (131 feet).
  • Both: The bloom water is “stratified” (layered) with denser, cooler water below and lighter, warmer water on top.

Waldo will complete his mission this week or early next, while Bass will finish in two to three weeks.

The robots’ data are feeding into short-term forecasts of the red tide bloom developed by the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides, a partnership effort between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and USF.

Forecast findings:
The latest three-day forecasts from USF and FWC, informed in part by the Mote-USF robot missions, show:

  • The surface water in the bloom region is expected to move slightly south, but move little overall.
  • The deep water in the bloom region is expected to move southeast slowly.
  • These south and southeast movements could bring the bloom close to southwest Florida’s coast in the coming weeks. However, there are many variables. For instance, large weather systems passing through can break up blooms.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, no respiratory irritation is expected at southwest Florida beaches through Aug. 11.
  • At this time, Mote scientists encourage Florida residents and visitors to remain informed and follow scientific findings closely. (Scroll down for red tide links and resources.)

Other updates from scientists in the field:

  • FWC cruise with Mote and USF scientists on board: FWC, Mote and USF scientists are currently collecting many kinds of data about the bloom during an FWC-led research cruise aboard the R/V Bellows, which is expected to wrap up Wednesday. The goal is to construct a 3-D picture of the red tide by measuring concentrations of red tide algae in surface and deep waters offshore of Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando counties.

    Mote scientists on board are using state-of-the-art technology — including a Mote-developed red tide detector called an optical phytoplankton discriminator, nicknamed “BreveBuster” — to learn more about the red tide alga Karenia brevis and its relationship to the dynamic community of other microscopic algae found in Gulf waters. The Mote researchers are studying phytoplankton pigments to study other species in addition to K. brevis. FWC is defining the nutrients present, and studying DNA and the phytoplankton community. USF scientists are studying optical properties of the bloom: ways that algae reflect the light. This is important for ground-truthing satellite images.

  • Results from Mote’s water samples on July 31: Mote’s water sampling trip last Thursday, July 31, helped document red tide presence and intensity for FWC’s statewide report on Aug. 1. Mote samples revealed medium concentrations of red tide algae at some sites offshore of Pasco and Hernando counties — a region in the thick of the bloom. Mote also sampled waters between Sarasota and the bloom’s southern edge, finding that many sites lacked red tide or only had background concentrations. However, sampling confirmed low and very low concentrations of red tide algae about 33 miles west of Caladesi Island in Pinellas County. (For definitions of bloom concentrations, scroll to the bottom of FWC’s report.)

    It’s important to note that sampling is tricky: Red tide blooms can be very patchy, and areas with few red tide cells can be close to areas with lots of cells. The cells can even swim and clump together. That means scientists must  take multiple samples to get the best possible understanding of bloom intensity.

Partnership efforts:

Mote, USF and FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and others who study Florida red tide are partners in a major environmental monitoring collaboration called GCOOS – the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. GCOOS provides timely information about the environment of the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico and its estuaries for use by decision-makers, including researchers, government managers, industry, the military, educators, emergency responders and the general public. Both gliders are reporting data to GCOOS’s Data Portal (http://gcoos.org/products/) in support of these efforts.

Red tide resources:

The Reviews Are In: Mote Aquarium is Tops

Travelers have spoken and Mote Aquarium made the Top 10 list of best U.S. aquariums, so says TripAdvisor, which announced their 2014 Traveler’s Choice awards this week.

The awards honor top travel spots worldwide based on the millions of reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor travelers. Award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews for zoos and aquariums worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period.

“For those wanting to see the world’s most wondrous creatures, TripAdvisor has named the Travelers’ Choice Zoos and Aquariums, as chosen by the community of millions,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “Travelers can enjoy a fun and educational experience at any of these popular award-winning attractions around the globe.”

Here’s what one happy visitor from the UK had to say:

“Every time we visit Sarasota we call in at Mote. It is a great place for all the family. Kids love to see the manatees and dolphins, wife and I check in on Hang Tough, the blind turtle. So much for everyone to see here, and the new attraction “Survivors” is brilliant. Will never forget the flamboyant cuttlefish nor the mantis shrimp…”

Speaking of our newest limited-time exhibit — “Survivors: Beautiful and Extreme Adaptations,” which highlights the unique methods that some animals use to survive and thrive —  will only be open through Sept. 14, so be sure to visit soon!

Check out Mote’s page on TripAdvisor.

See the announcement about top zoos and aquariums from TripAdvisor.

Night of Fish, Fun and Fright

Save the Date: Oct. 17

Buoys and ghouls of all ages are invited to dress up in costume for a Night of Fish, Fun and Fright from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17 at Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island, Sarasota.

Sail the spooky seas and discover creatures from the deep in a safe and fun trick-or-treating zone and explore “Dr. Frankin-Fish’s Lab of Horrors” (recommended for children 8 and older). Unearth sharks’ teeth in “Coffin Creek,” enjoy deep sea delights in the “Diner of the Dead” and take part in an education program geared toward ages 2-5. Don’t miss our signature underwater pumpkin carving in our spooktacular shark exhibit!
Ticket prices:

Mote’s Oceanic Evening

Save the Date: Oct. 25

Make your reservation today for Mote Marine Laboratory’s signature gala, Oceanic Evening.

This annual black-tie fundraiser for marine science, conservation and education will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive.

Tickets are $300 per person and include a gourmet dinner featuring Mote Farm-Raised Sturgeon and Caviar — local seafood raised sustainably in aquaculture by Mote.

For reservations and sponsorships, contact Stacy Alexander or Erin Knievel at 941-388-4441 or stacyalexander@mote.org or eknievel@mote.org.

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote has 24 research programs and a variety of initiatives dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at mote.org.

Copyright©2014 Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, All rights reserved.

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