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Monitoring Algae in Lake O Using an Autonomous Sailboat

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ANDREW QUINTANA / WLRN

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.

 

Mike Kiniry is producer of Gulf Coast Live, and co-creator and host of the WGCU podcast Three Song Stories: Biography Through Music. He first joined the WGCU team in the summer of 2003 as an intern while studying Communication at Florida Gulf Coast University. 
Julie Glenn is the News Director and the host of Gulf Coast Live. She joined the WGCU team in November of 2016 to expand the Gulf Coast Live call-in radio show from once a week to five days a week.  Since then, the show has been recognized in state and regional competitions and has featured artists, political leaders, historians, environmental experts, doctors, local reporters, and national and international scholars. After leading the station's award-winning coverage of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, Julie was named Interim News Director. In January of 2018, she launched WGCU's first podcast: Grape Minds.