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Released December 1, 2003


STENNIS SPACE CENTER - Red tides are a common problem in Florida and have also been reported in waters off the Mississippi Sound. Recently, faculty and researchers from The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Marine Science recently partnered with scientists from other universities and research agencies to detect and track toxic red tide organisms in Florida's coastal waters.

Using a combination of measurements from ships, aircraft, satellites, and underwater vehicles, Dr. Steven E. Lohrenz, professor of marine science at Southern Miss, along with Dr. Susanne Craig, associate research scientist, and graduate students Megan Butterworth and James Byrum, partnered with scientists from Rutgers, Cal Polytech, University of South Florida and the Mote Marine Laboratory to track the Florida red tide Nov. 3-7.

"The cruise was a unique opportunity for USM students and faculty to gain first-hand experience in the use of cutting-edge ocean technology as a means of confronting a serious threat to the quality of our coastal waters," Lohrenz said.

Working from the University of South Florida's Research Vessel Suncoaster, the Southern Miss team and collaborators carried out round-the-clock studies using special optical sensors to track the abundance and characteristics of the red tide species, Karenia brevis, which frequently blooms in Florida's coastal waters.

While these ship operations were underway, special sensing equipment cruised throughout the area aboard underwater glides and unmanned submersible robots providing additional information to the scientists through satellite and microwave communications. The red tides were also tracked from the sky using ocean color satellites and an airborne imaging spectrometer carried aboard a plane flown out of MacDill Air Force Base.

This operation marks an unprecedented step in the combined use of advanced technology to detect and track red tide phenomena off the Florida coast. Lessons learned from this exercise will guide future efforts to monitor and better understand red tide blooms.

The Southern Miss Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., home to the world's largest population of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department offers both master's and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree in hydrographic science.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM