FGCU researchers want to test Gulf of Mexico’s water quality

Researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University want to put sensors in several spots around the Gulf of Mexico’s floor to test water quality.

Researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University want to put sensors in several spots around the Gulf of Mexico’s floor to test water quality.

The team led by Dr. Mike Parsons is utilizing portions of grant money received in fall 2018 to place the sensors in specific locations to test oxygen, nutrient, temperature, salinity, and other levels. The data is expected to help better understand the timeline of red tide and the impact it had on oxygen levels in the water at some of its deepest points right off the southwest Florida coast.

“By getting these sensors out and putting really good measures on these conditions we can see how things are changing,” Dr. Parsons said. “Red tide is still out here, it’s calmed down quite a bit and it’s offshore but by continuously collecting this data we’ll be able to see how conditions change when it comes back.”

“We’re not sure if red tide would go all the way to the bottom to tap into those nutrients,” Dr. Parsons said of the limited data available, especially for impacts deeper in the Gulf.

Researchers from the university also are studying ciguatera toxin, which also involves a great deal of work diving to the bottom of south Florida’s largest saltwater bodies.

“We’re taking our expertise studying ciguatera,” Dr. Parsons said of the team’s dedication to diving deep into water quality issues and getting answers about what it means for our community.

“Just finding out what’s the best way for this region to be more productive economically and ecologically,” FGCU Master’s student and researcher Adam Catasus said. “[We’ll] collect data to show this is what’s happening over time, show the effects.”

Water collected on Thursday from several dive sites showed a high concentration of bloom, but thankfully not red tide. High levels of the diatom Asterionellopsis glacialis were in bloom, and a well mixed water column proved to be positive for the new bloom but not good for red tide blooms.

“These low oxygen issues are caused by a lot of bacteria breaking down organic matter,” Dr. Parsons said of the oxygen issues that plagued the southwest Florida coast all summer. “The big question I think out here is how were the low oxygen levels linked to red tide.”

Dr. Parsons also noted the potential that red tide fuels itself to grow by feeding of the fish kills that it causes.

“If we removed the dead fish biomass we’d remove one of the nutrient sources from red tide,” he explained. “Is there a way we can remove the fish before they wash up on the beaches and ruin our tourism?” Dr. Parsons wondered, noting the millions lost in southwest Florida’s economy from the summer’s water woes. “[This] will get us really high-resolution data.”

The university research team will pull the data from sensors on a monthly basis to collect information allow them to better understand the timeline and circle of red tides impact.

Source: https://www.nbc-2.com/story/39727682/what-is-the-water-quality-of-the-gulf-of-mexico

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