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Scientific Dive Team testing ways to fight red tide

Posted at 7:48 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 09:55:13-05

FORT MYERS, Fla — On a warm day in February, the Florida Gulf Coast University Scientific Dive team led by Dive Safety Officer Calli Johnson hit the water.

“These are certified divers that we are continuing training with," said Professor Johnson.

The class runs rescue safety drills in addition to research training.

"In order to make them better job candidates and number two to get them involved with the research with our PI's here at the university.”

The sediment traps will collect data for multiple research projects. One researcher said this will help him better understand his project which focuses on algae-caused toxins called ciguatoxins.

“It’s actually really harmful to humans because humans have fish in our diets so we’re really impacted by it."

As the team slowly sinks to the bottom, they start to work on the light green sediment traps. The devices look simple but Professor Johnson said they play a key role in the research.

“They’re installed in several of our local reefs offshore. They hang upright and as the debris sinks down we can trap all kinds of things.”

Professor Johnson said it’s important to train with the traps in the pool so there are no issues when they take them offshore. She said this is especially important on a project that could potentially stop red tide in its' tracks.

“Red tide actually forms underwater and on the bottom. We can learn as much as possible so we can mitigate it so it doesn’t get to the surface and create huge blooms," said Professor Johnson.

Last semester’s class already deployed some devices offshore, and Professor Johnson said this class will do the same once they have more funding.

While diving with the students, it's easy to see their passion for water quality.

"It inspired me to take a scuba course and once I did there was no turning back," said Alejandro Marin. "I think it's important for us to start taking care of our oceans and I think we have to spread that awareness."