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FWC Using New Tactics to Monitor Harmful Algal Blooms

FWC researchers have begun using new approaches to more quickly detect and track harmful algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon, which spans 156 miles and makes up 40 percent of Florida’s east coast, supporting commercial and recreational clam and oyster farming.


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To provide spatial snapshots of blooms (the big picture of where blooms may be occurring in the lagoon) the FWC established a flow-through monitoring program this year. The flow-through monitoring system analyzes water quality while the research vessel is in motion, traveling throughout the lagoon, as opposed to traditional methods of tracking blooms that require scientists to collect water and examine it back in the lab. The flow-through system pumps water from the surface through instruments that measure salinity, temperature and chlorophyll fluorescence, an indicator of algae. This information is then integrated with GPS coordinates to create maps of surface waters that can show “hot spots” of blooms.

Monthly, between June and August (typical bloom season) the FWC maps surface waters in the Indian River Lagoon system, which includes Mosquito Lagoon and Banana River, to detect blooms and to put routine monitoring data into a spatial context. The equipment produces real-time data, which allow researchers to adaptively sample bloom patches as they are noticed in the field. At select stations, researchers also collect samples to be analyzed for the amount and diversity of algae; this is done in partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District and the University of Florida.

The information will help in the short term to detect blooms and in the longer term to identify the causes of blooms, ultimately leading to better management strategies.

To learn more about the FWC’s harmful algal bloom program, including monitoring in the Indian River Lagoon, visit