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Scientists analyze how to predict when, where algae blooms will occur on Lake Okeechobee

Benthic lander measures flux of nutrients
Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 11:42:29-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Florida's east coast has been spared freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee this summer, which often lead to toxic algae blooms.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch are looking for better ways to determine when a bloom might surface and where.

Dr. Jordon Beckler stands in front of a benthic lander, a device they plan to put at the bottom of the lake soon where it will sit for 24 hours.

"The most important thing it does is measure the flux of nutrients -- the nutrients coming from the sediment and becoming available to the microcystis algae," Beckler said.

The microcystis algae has led to harmful algal blooms in recent years.

benthic lander
This benthic lander will help scientists analyze the nutrients in the water on Lake Okeechobee to help combat algae blooms.

The lander device is one result of a $2.2 million grant FAU received to create its Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee (HALO) program.

In 2019, FAU launched a small sailboat in Pahokee that crisscrossed the lake, measuring algae and water quality at the surface.

The lander will provide similar details from down below, helping to pinpoint blooms before they emerge or whether an existing bloom will expand.

“And by doing so, that helps us efficiently decide if we want to actively mitigate the bloom,” said Beckler.

Starting Jan. 1, the data from the lander will be uploaded to public websites so you can see what the lander sees in the lake.