Jordon Beckler talks about the Navocean Nav2 on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, an autonomous sailboat to be used for monitoring algae in Lake Okeechobee. Eric Hasert, [email protected]

Early last June, it began.

The first tendrils of fluorescent green cyanobacteria began to line up in windrows just off the eastern shoreline of Florida’s largest lake.

A month later, the bloom of toxic algae, harmful to humans and containing an amino acid linked to liver and motor-neuron diseases, nearly blanketed all of Lake Okeechobee’s 730 square miles. Compounding the issue, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to discharge lake water east and west into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River to protect the safety of residents in the communities surrounding the lake’s rim.

What followed was ecological devastation and an environmental catastrophe.

Since taking office in January, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been marching toward a Florida best known for clean water, good fishing and fun boating excursions.

Earlier this week, he named five people to a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, a cast of scientific Avengers, at Hobe Sound’s Nathanial P. Reed National Wildlife Refuge.

More: Ron DeSantis announces newly-formed Blue-Green Algae Task Force

The Task Force consists of some of Florida’s premier harmful algae bloom researchers and are connected to, or direct, five of the state’s foremost research institutions.

The team will work under the direction of Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, a position created and announced by DeSantis in early April.

Frazer begins his new role Monday. Frazer and his team will work alongside the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Task Force is:

  • Wendy Graham — The Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and director of the Water Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
  • Evelyn Gaiser — Executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society and professor of biology at Florida International University in Miami.
  • Michael Parsons — Professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station in Fort Myers.
  • James Sullivan — Executive director of Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce and an expert on marine ecosystem health.
  • Valerie Paul — Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce.

Following the governor’s announcement Monday, First Lady Casey DeSantis praised the move and explained the governor’s motivation.