University of Florida researchers want to hear from Florida residents and visitors to gauge the value and accessibility of information pertaining to Florida red tide events.
Florida red tides, harmful algal blooms caused by the toxin-producing dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, are a near annual occurrence within the Gulf of Mexico. Occasionally, blooms can reach the Panhandle and east coast of Florida. The toxin-producing events have negative impacts on Florida’s wildlife, economy, and public health causing serious implications to many sectors of the sunshine state.
Residents and visitors to Florida 18 years of age and older are invited to participate in an online survey to gather feedback on existing red tide websites. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of three existing red tide websites. The survey is designed to assess the aesthetics, navigation and user experience, and the usefulness of the information provided on the websites.
The Florida Sea Grant program at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) are collaborating through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)–funded project “Development of a Red Tide Communication Plan for Florida” in administering the survey.
“We recognize that there are several existing red tide websites filled with useful information, however, they may not be meeting the needs of you – the public,” said Lisa Krimsky, a regional specialized water agent for UF/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant. “We are conducting a survey to evaluate these existing websites to assess their value and determine what improvements could be made.”
The survey should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Participants will be asked to navigate to an external red tide website while completing the survey. Survey respondents are encouraged to complete the survey while using a computer so that two windows can be open at the same time on one screen.
There are no expected risks or benefits to participating in this survey, and participants will not receive any compensation from the University of Florida. Participation is voluntary, and participant responses will be recorded as anonymous.
The online survey is one of the steps in the development of a statewide communication plan funded by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), an arm of the FWC.
The plan’s ultimate purpose is to improve the public’s access to and understanding of red tide information, allowing for improved decision-making during bloom events, reduced economic impacts to coastal communities, and improved quality of life with lower exposure to brevetoxins.
“Florida Sea Grant has been integral in bringing together scientists from various institutions to help advance the science of harmful algal blooms in Florida,” said Krimsky. “We are excited to expand these efforts and develop a communication strategy that meets the needs of Florida’s residents and businesses. This project is at the core of what Florida Sea Grant does, engaging diverse audiences in science-based solutions to support a healthy coastal environment and economy.”