[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Mote robot monitors red tide bloom


Mote robot monitors red tide bloom

Alan Hails of Mote Marine Laboratory is shown with the AUV called Waldo before it was launched. (Photo courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory)

Staff report
Herald Tribune

Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:45 a.m.

ENGLEWOOD - An underwater robot deployed Friday will help Mote Marine Laboratory to monitor the red tide bloom off Southwest Florida, according to a press release.

The yellow, torpedo-shaped robot called "Waldo" will head toward the edge of the bloom to gather information on the bloom's shape, size and other characteristics. The robot carries a BreveBuster™ — a Mote-designed instrument that detects Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis.

The device went into the water from a boat several miles off Englewood. During the next two weeks, the robot is programmed to move southward to an area offshore of Boca Grande pass, and then head toward the last known edge of the bloom.

The robot is part of Mote's effort to learn more about the bloom's dynamics.

Water samples collected early this week showed low to medium concentrations of red tide algae on the Charlotte and northern Lee County shores. Additional samples have shown lower concentrations elsewhere along Southwest Florida's coast. Satellite images provided by USF early this week suggested the bloom stretched from Sarasota County to Collier County. New images and results from water samples are expected in the coming days.

Mote is working to gain a better understanding of the bloom's dynamics with partners from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the University of South Florida.

The device will look for red tide algae, zigzagging up and down the water column to seek the red tide algae beneath the surface, where satellites cannot see it, and will send its findings to Mote scientists each time it surfaces.

"Waldo has a critical job in the team effort to monitor and study this red tide bloom," said Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote's Phytoplankton Ecology Program and creator of the BreveBuster™ that Waldo carries. "The AUV can stay at sea for much longer periods than researchers on a boat, and it can do its job in almost any kind of weather. It's important to have this kind of continuous monitoring to help ground-truth satellite images and to complement the more detailed information we're getting from our water samples."

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