Mote scientist elected as Algal Bloom Committee Co-Chair
The National Harmful Algal Bloom Committee (NHC) has elected Dr. Barbara Kirpatrick as co-chair. Kirpatrick is a leader in research on Florida red tide and human health at Mote Marine Laboratory. The NHC brings together those from research organizations, government agencies, communities and other groups to focus on harmful algal blooms while raising national-level awareness of bloom-related issues. Harmful algal blooms are rapid increases in microscopic algae that is toxic or otherwise harmful to humans, wildlife and even ecosystems.
These blooms occur along every part of the U.S. coastline and potentially in every freshwater body in the country. A key example in the Gulf of Mexico is Florida red tide, a bloom of the naturally occurring algae Karenia brevis, which produces toxins that can sicken or kill marine life, sicken humans who eat contaminated shellfish and cause coughing and sneezing among healthy beachgoers and sometimes more serious respiratory problems among beachgoers with underlying lung diseases.
Harmful algal blooms affect wide swaths of U.S. society, including our multi-billion-dollar seafood and coastal tourism industries; responding to blooms depends on research, public education and policies that work together at the national level, said Kirkpatrick, manager of the Environmental Health Program at Mote in a press release. NHC is a nationwide nexus for those focused on harmful algae, and I’m honored to serve this vital organization as co-chair.
Kirkpatrick was elected by a vote among NHC members, and she begins her two-year term this month along with Co-Chair Dr. Raphael Kudela, Professor of Ocean Sciences and a phytoplankton ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Kirkpatrick has served on the NHC Education and Outreach Committee and has been a member of NHC since 2008. She has more than 12 years of experience studying how harmful algal blooms affect human health. At Mote she co-led the only long-term study of how Florida’s red tide affects humans, including those with respiratory illnesses.
This 10-year study involving medical professionals, oceanographers, chemists, pharmacologists and others and led to hundreds of new findings and even potential new drug treatments for cystic fibrosis and COPD sufferers.
Kirkpatrick also developed Mote’s Beach Conditions Report, which provides the public twice-daily updates on Florida red tide effects, wind direction, rip currents and other conditions at 25 beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Kirkpatrick is a member of the International Society for Harmful Algae, sits on the board for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care and holds several other honors and leadership positions related to her work on human health and harmful algae.
Barb is a great choice for the Co-Chair of the NHC, said outgoing Co-Chair Dr. Don Anderson, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in a press release.“She combines years of experience with harmful algal blooms in Florida and at the national level with a strong commitment to education and outreach. Her activities to inform the public at all levels about algal blooms and their impacts have been creative and productive. She is also a good leader because she is personable and outgoing, works well with others, but also drives towards a goal with persistence.”