Enterprise Charlotte Foundation, WMU Work to Forecast Algae Blooms

by Tyler Lecceadone
January 30, 2017 | Extended University Programs News

A Charlotte County foundation is making it possible for internationally known water quality experts from Western Michigan University to focus their attention on forecasting algae blooms along the local coastline.

The Enterprise Charlotte Foundation has awarded nearly $18,000 to WMU for a study its scientists are doing aimed at improving the ability to forecast algae blooms along the Charlotte County, Florida, coastline and its northern and southern extensions.

The research will be done by a team of WMU undergraduate and graduate students led by Dr. Mohamed Sultan, chair of the Department of Geosciences and Dr. Matt Reeves, who directs WMU's hydrogeology program.. Both scientists have extensive backgrounds in tackling water quality issues with research efforts in locations that include the western United States, the Great Lakes, Kuwait Bay on the Persian Gulf and the Tigris-Euphrates watershed.

Through the Charlotte County study, WMU researchers hope to:

  • develop data-driven models to identify factors controlling the occurrences of blooms,
  • make recommendations for monitoring variables most indicative of algae blooms, and
  • generate a web-based global information system that incorporates all relevant data.

To accomplish the goals of the project, the study will rely on available remote sensing data in the Gulf of Mexico, meteorological information, and other environmental field data.

“Our goal is to bring applied sciences for the sustainable development of greater Charlotte County,” said Sultan. “Using the results of our research, we hope to identify a more proactive approach to creating solutions for environmental and economic concerns caused by algae.”

Leaders in Charlotte County and around the state of Florida have recognized algae as an environmental concern with economic consequences.

“Many issues play into keeping Charlotte County’s economic engine running strong, including our shoreline,” said Lucienne Pears, Charlotte County’s economic development director who oversees the Enterprise Charlotte Foundation. “We are excited to partner with Western Michigan University to build an approach allowing community leaders to find ways to alleviate both economic and environmental concerns caused by algae.”

Last year, WMU announced plans to begin offering programs in Punta Gorda, on the campus of Florida Southwestern State College. At that time, officials talked with community leaders about identifying partnership opportunities, such as using WMU’s research in the areas of fresh water, hydrogeology, and geosciences to create a positive impact on the community through sustainable land use.

Researchers Sultan and Reeves have made a series of presentations to the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners outlining how WMU's sustainability efforts could impact the community. Their presentations covered WMU's ability to conduct research and educate students on various environmental issues that are important to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Projects like this are just the beginning of WMU’s collaboration with the Charlotte County community,” said Edwin Martini, associate dean of WMU’s Extended University Programs. “We hope to develop and support the county’s long-term goal of creating sustainable communities.”

The remaining $54,000 to fund the study will come from various WMU entities including the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Arts and Sciences and Extended University Programs.

For more information about WMU's programs in Florida, contact our recruitment and outreach manager, Nicole Johnson .