SARASOTA — Thanks to the Andrew and Judith Economos Charitable Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory will be better able to research the red tide algae.
Mote announced Monday how a $1 million endowment from the foundation will establish and support the first year of operations for the Red Tide Institute at the nonprofit Mote lab in Sarasota.
“The momentum created by establishing the Red Tide Institute at Mote will hopefully inspire other visionary, philanthropic leaders to join an effort that must continue long after this year’s bloom is out of sight and out of mind for many,” Mote CEO Michael Crosby said in a prepared statement.
Mote now has various projects underway researching various aspects of red tide, but the institute is envisioned to be “an innovation hub of intensive research and development focused exclusively on advancing promising technologies for controlling and mitigating red tide impacts toward practical application.”
The institute will allow Mote to expand its staff of senior scientists devoted to red tide research, as well as expand the lab’s partnerships with other research efforts, Mote spokesperson Hayley Rutger said.
Mote is also participating in a $2.2 million state research effort to test innovative red tide mitigation technologies.
Since November of last year, the sustained and severe concentrations of the red tide algae — Karenia brevis — along Gulf shorelines has led to fish kills, marine mammal and sea turtle deaths, respiratory irritations in humans throughout Southwest Florida. While natural to the Gulf, medium concentrations of red tide, 100,000 or more cells per liter of water, can trigger fish kills and other impacts from toxins produced by the algae.
The area around Englewood, north to Venice and south to Naples is enjoying a reprieve. Water samples collected last week showed natural background to very low concentrations of red tide, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report on myfwc.com. No red tide was detected in samples taken from Englewood Beach, Gasparilla Sound and Boca Grande.
No red tide turned up from Venice south to Manasota Beach, either. Low counts turned up at Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key Oct. 15, but any sign of red tide disappeared from water samples the following day. Sarasota County still saw medium to high concentrations from water samples collected from New Pass and Sarasota Bay. Samples from Nokomis showed only background counts.