Citizen scientists helping track red tide on Sanibel - 96.9 WINK FM

Citizen scientists helping track red tide on Sanibel


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission red tide map still shows medium to high concentrations around Sanibel and Pine Island Sound.

Scientists are using red tide data and weather forecasts to better inform people when a bloom might impact their health.

They are also getting help from citizen scientists who are casting a line to help collect water quality data.

Georgianne Nienbar fishing for water samples. (Credit: WINK News)

It might look like Georgianne Nienbar is fishing, but it is not bait on her hook. It’s a water sample used to study red tide.

“Why do I do it? Because I love the ocean. I love Sanibel,” said Nienbar.

Nienbar knows the effects of red tide all too well. “You can’t even come out here to read a book because you’re coughing, coughing, coughing, coughing, although I’ve done it, and that last weekend, it was really bad.”

Nienbar is no marine biologist, just a citizen scientist who cares.

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Rick Bartleson takes over from there. At the lab, he counts red tide particles “Using a software program that can identify the organism based on its shape and how it swims.”

Lighthouse Beach Park water sample test. (Credit: WINK News)

The sample above came from Lighthouse Beach Park on Friday.

“There has been quite a bit of [red tide], over a million cells per liter this last week at the beaches,” said Bartleson.

That’s high, but it moves fast. Bartelson’s samples showed low concentrations on the south side of Sanibel and medium near Lighthouse Beach Park.

“And so we’ve had a patch, or at least a patch of red tide come by, and maybe it’s going to just keep going by or getting dispersed by this Northwind,” Bartleson said.

The final step? Combining Bartleson’s sample data with the weather forecast to predict the impact on people on or near the beach, all done with the help of volunteers.

“This is something I can do to maybe help figure out how to fix it,” said Nienbar.

Nienaber considers it a privilege to help with the red tide research.

You can find the correct FWC red tide status by clicking here. You can also click here to discover where scientists think rid tide might appear next.


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