Cynthia Heil

SARASOTA — Cynthia Heil envisions Mote Marine Laboratory’s new research Red Tide Institute becoming a hub of innovative research for red tide and other harmful algae.

Mote named Heil to be the director of the institute when it’s up and running in January. The Andrew and Judith Economos Charitable Foundation provided Mote with a $1 million grant last month to establish the institute.

Heil is well suited to direct the institute.

She is now at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, where she developed an independent research program focused on water quality, harmful algal blooms and ecosystem management. Maine is experiencing what’s been dubbed as “Maine red tide,” a toxic algae similar to the karenia brevis algae that’s been plaguing Southwest Florida for a year.

Prior to her work with the Bigelow Laboratory, Heil served as a group red tide research leader at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute from 2003 to 2010.

Her recent research addresses the interrelationship of water quality and nutrients, as well as identifying the underlying factors that can intensify toxic algae blooms. She has seen some success in the lab minimizing the aerosols from toxic algae blooms by reducing surface temperatures.

The challenge is translating research success in the lab to outside of the lab, Heil suggested. But with any research, she said, “The first rule is to do no harm.”


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