National red tide expert to lead new red tide institute

cynthia heile In: National red tide expert to lead new red tide institute | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Cynthia Heil
Marine Mote has accepted donations from Mosaic in the past, but claims they now take no contributions from them.  Mote Marine’s web page of corporate sponsors still lists Mosaic.  We sincerely hope The new institute will take a hard look at what is going into the Gulf out of Lake Okeechobee, and study the relationship of fertilizer nitrate and red tide, as many scientists believe there is a  strong connection.
Mote is in the uncomfortable position of being funded by a company which puts them squarely in an apparent conflict of interest position.  Greenmedinfo writes the  following regarding a Mote spokeperson who sees no conflict:

We disagree that this is not a conflict of interest. This is a significant level of support coming from a strip-mining company whose manufacturing plants produce the kind of phosphorous rich fertilizers that lead to algal growth both in Lake O’ (green), and (we believe) the Gulf of Mexico, and whose phosphogypsum stacks of radioactive material laden waste products pile up throughout Florida to the tune of about 1 billion tons stacked in 25 locations in Florida, 22 of which are in central Florida. 

Read the original article here in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


National red tide expert to lead new red tide institute

By Carlos R. Munoz
Staff Writer

Posted Nov 23, 2018 at 9:13 AM Updated Nov 23, 2018 at 12:40 PM

Cynthia Heil will lead the newly-formed Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory

SARASOTA — The researcher that will lead the newly-formed Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory already has an idea to dampen the onshore effects of airborne red tide brevetoxins in sea spray, which have plagued the Southwest Florida coast for more than a hear.

Cynthia Heil, the newly hired director of the institute, says she will test her mitigation method and others, when she arrives at City Island research center in January. She has already begun researching state of the art systems for control and mitigation of harmful algal blooms.

“It’s going to be a process where we assess the method, is it effective in the lab, can we test it and is it feasible to use in our situation,” Heil said. “The logistics are mind-boggling to mitigate the whole bloom.”

The institute will focus on catching blooms early, when they are small, and mitigating localized effects.

“I am personally pleased by Dr. Heil’s return to Florida,” said Robert Weisberg, a distinguished physical oceanography professor at University of South Florida College of Marine Science. “She played a leadership role in the past in K. brevis (Karenia brevis) research while at Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, where she was in 2007 when USF and FWRI jointly established a Center for Prediction of Red-tide within the College of Marine Science-USF. The CPR work continues despite the loss of funding to state budget cuts after only two years of inception.”

The CPR developed a method for season prediction of major red tide events and successfully predicted the present ongoing event, Weisberg says. It provides daily forecasts of where red tide is heading using observations supplied by FWRI and model simulations.

“Critically missing are more observations offshore, which CPR long ago identified as a need, but have lacked the resources to regularly implement,” Weisberg said. “I am hopeful that with new red tide leadership at Mote, there will emerge an increased awareness of what is required to advance our understanding and predictive capabilities for red tide, plus the resources required to engage this awareness.”

Heil earned a bachelors degree in biology at Purdue University, a masters degree in marine science at USF, and a doctorate in oceanography at University of Rhode Island. She studied development and implementation of marine plants during a fellowship at University of Queensland Marine Botany Group from 1995 to 1998, was a research scientist at USF from 1998 to 2003, a senior research scientist at FWC from 2003 to 2010, and a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences since 2010.

She will continue Mote experiment’s testing ozone and specialized clay to counter red tide’s effects.

Mote CEO Michael Crosby introduced the Red Tide Institute in October and estimated that at least a dozen technologies are ready to be tested in small-scale lab environments.

Heil has been working on her own experiment in the interim in Maine, which uses organic compounds to affect surface water tension and aerosolization of airborne red tide in sea spray.

The new institute, based at Mote, is looking to collaborate with red tide experts around the world, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute, and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science are two local groups already selected for collaboration.

As the red tide group leader at the FWCRI, Heil, who has studied red tide since 1996, oversaw 25 scientists studying and monitoring

“This Red Tide Institute gives us the flexibility to look at all these methods,” Heil said. “It gives us an opportunity to bring the best minds to bear on the situation; it’s a forefront of the science.”

The new director, currently still living in Maine, will take her post around Jan. 5. She has closely followed the scientific communities studies of red tide and the local online reaction to its effects. She is concerned that some of her work has been misinterpreted by online users seeking answers.

“This is the bloom that social media discovered,” Heil said. “I’m going to try and give people perspective. … It’s a brave new world on how to best educate and correct misinformation.”

There is no “smoking gun” solution to the problem, says Heil. “What terminates a bloom will be investigated under mitigation.”

The current red tide bloom is now typical of a seasonal bloom, said the researcher, raising optimism that it could run its course and disperse between December and March.

“It’s larger than you’d expect,” Heil said. “If it runs out of nutrients or currents push it south and to the west it could disappear. Whether they go to Cuba or disperse we don’t know.”

Back to top
Skip to content