New self-reporting red tide app available from Mote

Smartphones operating on iOS or Android systems can use the app to provide details in real time

Image courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

Mote Marine Laboratory has unveiled a new app to allow smartphone users to self-report impacts of Florida red tide algae (Karenia brevis).

“The free app, Citizen Science Information Collaboration (CSIC), allows users to report when and where they experience respiratory irritation or see discolored water or dead fish — all potential indications of Florida red tide,” Hayley Rutger of Mote’s media team has announced. “This summer and later, Mote scientists plan to add multiple other reportable environmental conditions beyond red tide impacts,” she added in a news release.

“We’re doing this to obtain new data streams while empowering the public and putting the reporting in their hands,” said Tracy Fanara, manager of Mote’s Environmental Health Program, in the release.

Fanara worked with Vincent Lovko, manager of Mote’s Phytoplankton Ecology Program, and web development contractors at Function on Phones to create the CSIC app, the release explains. The concept for the app resulted from a project completed by a former Mote intern and discussion with the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) group of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWC-FWRI), the release adds.

“The new CSIC app — available for iOS and Android phones — is designed to enhance and complement existing red tide resources for the public, including FWC-FWRI’s statewide red tide tools and status updates, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s respiratory irritation forecasts, Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System’s twice-daily updates at 31 Gulf Coast beaches, and the University of South Florida’s three-day forecasts of bloom trajectories and processed chlorophyll imagery (indicating marine algae) with red tide concentrations overlaid, the release points out.

“We are encouraging people to use the app along the entire Gulf coast — including areas where red tide blooms may occur less frequently, such as the Florida Panhandle,” Lovko said in the release. “When app users report on current conditions, the presence or absence of red tide indicators helps bloom tracking and ultimately, informs response efforts.”

Users need no training to post reports, the release notes, adding that they can learn more about Florida red tide through exploring other features of the app. “They can report water discoloration by choosing among several sample pictures — since many factors, including red tide, can cause water discoloration in the Gulf — and will be guided by brief captions when reporting dead fish and respiratory irritation,” the release explains.

Reports will be displayed for eight hours on CSIC’s map, the release says.

For questions, concerns, troubleshooting or other feedback about the early-stage CSIC app, Mote asks users to email with “App feedback” in the subject line.