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Monitoring Algae in Lake O Using an Autonomous Sailboat


As most of our listeners are well-aware, Southwest Florida recently experienced two severe harmful algal blooms: the red tide along the coast, and the toxic blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary. Both blooms were at least partly fueled by nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee, but there is no doubt that the lake was the source of the toxic blue-green algae. Now, there’s a new research effort underway to monitor algae in Lake Okeechobee using a self-driving, solar-powered, data-collecting sailboat called Nav2. It was used in 2017 to collect information on the red tide bloom, and now it’s been launched in Lake Okeechobee to collect data there.

Joining us to explain how it works, what kinds of information it collects, and what researchers hope to do with all that data is Dr. Jordan Beckler, he is assistant research professor, and Director of the Geochemistry and Geochemical Sensing Lab at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. We’re also joined by one of the people who invented this small self-sailing research vessel, Scott Duncan, President of Navocean.