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EPA grant funds research on HABs related to releases

By SCCF - | Nov 18, 2020


Thanks to a recent award through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab is expanding its research into harmful algal blooms and their connection to Lake Okeechobee releases.

In 2018, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant to the lab and scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Florida to study HABs and connections to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.

“After 18 months of sampling the Caloosahatchee from Beautiful Island to the Gulf of Mexico, there were at least four harmful algal blooms,” lab Director Eric Milbrandt said. “In freshwater, there was Anabaena and other cyanobacteria, in the middle estuary there was a dinoflagellate bloom and there were red tide blooms, also caused by a dinoflagellate.”

To extend the efforts, a proposal was written and submitted to the EPA in a competition open to all university and nonprofit researchers. In fiscal year 2020, South Florida Geographic Initiatives selected the SCCF lab’s application for a Harmful Algal Bloom Observing Network for the Caloosahatchee with federal funding of $320,668 with a match of $209,311 for a total of $529,979 in expense funding.

“The project leverages the River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network and expands RECON’s capability by adding cyanobacterial sensors and an additional real-time location near S-77, a water control structure on Lake Okeechobee that allows flow into the river,” Milbrandt said “This observation network will also depend on monthly sampling to evaluate relationships between HABs and water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.”

The project is expected to start in the spring and will run for two years.