Red Tide Data Integration Project

Principal Investigator
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Analyzing human health data to better understand and respond to Red Tide blooms.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are composed of phytoplankton known to naturally produce biotoxins. Along the Texas coast, HABs, like red tide, occur when certain types of microscopic algae grow quickly in coastal or oceanic water, forming visible patches that may harm the health of the environment, plants, or animals. When the red tide algae disintegrate, their neurotoxins may become an aerosol causing adverse effects that can significantly increase emergency room traffic and visits to doctors. Emergency responders and the medical community may not be aware of the proximate cause and not equipped to handle significant increases in patients and demands on facilities increasing the risk of severe illness, even death, to the afflicted population. HABs affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the "health" of our economy — especially coastal communities dependent on the income of jobs generated through fishing and tourism.

The Texas HAB Data Integration Project will employ Texas researchers with expertise in HABs and coastal processes and medical researchers familiar with data about the effects of HABs on humans to work together to better prepare first responders, emergency rooms and the medical system in responding to red tide events, minimizing human health risks. Considerable temporal and spatial data exist on red tides occurring in coastal water adjacent to the mid-coast of Texas.

To our knowledge, no one has analyzed these environmental and medical datasets with the objective of developing a predictive model. With climate change and increasing nutrient pollution increasing HAB occurrences, we must provide better coordination with emergency responders, the medical community, and other Gulf States in predicting and monitoring HAB events.

 

This project is one in a series funded by the state Office of the Governor and administered through the Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence research consortium.