TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A group of Florida scientists met for the first time, Wednesday, to keep a toxic bacteria at bay and out of Florida waters.
Governor Ron DeSantis announced the creation of the Blue-green Algae Task Force in April. It followed what experts believe was the state’s worst blue-green algae outbreak ever, last year. The bacteria has been choking fresh waterways, like the Okeechobee— a hazard for both people and animals.
The five-member panel of scientists will be looking at ways to cut the causes of blue-green algae growth, things like fertilizer runoff and other sources of “nutrients,” which feed the organism.
The group’s adviser, Dr. Tom Frazer, who’s also Florida’s Chief Science Officer, said to accomplish that goal, the task force would attempt to use science to make better decisions on allocation of state resources, getting more “bang for our buck.”
“I’m pretty optimistic that what we come up with will not sit on a shelf,” Frazer said. “We have a very aggressive time frame. We have an executive order with a charge that says, hey, we’re here to make a difference.”
The first meeting was primarily to get some formalities out of the way and figure out how the group would work, plus get a perspective of Florida’s current blue-green algae levels and what monitoring systems are in use.
Officials said the task force is expected to meet every three to four weeks through the summer— but will likely meet less frequently, after.
A benefit— their work could also help other scientists with red tide, which is caused by different algae from similar sources. Frazer said they’ll be cooperating with those researchers to make it happen.