Red Tide Ranger training to delve into the mysteries of red tide

August 27, 2012

By Tony Reisinger

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – Discovery of a red tide in the Galveston Bay area earlier this month has prompted leaders of the award-winning Red Tide Rangers to schedule training for volunteers who want to join the first responders should the harmful algal bloom (HAB) move into far south Texas waters.

The training will be held at The University of Texas-Pan American Coastal Studies Lab, located in Isla Blanca Park, from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Sept. 12. Participants will learn how to collect water samples, identify the red tide organism — Karenia brevis — and count the number of cells.

Brigette Goza, Education Coordinator with the Coastal Studies Lab, will relate lessons learned from recent red tide events and Meridith Byrd, Texas Hazardous Algal Bloom Response Coordinator with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), will talk about the dangers posed by K. brevis and Dinophysis ovum, another HAB organism found in Texas coastal waters. Byrd will also explain the roles played by TPWD and the Department of State Health Services during a HAB and how the state uses monitoring data collected by Red Tide Rangers and others to determine bay closures, seafood advisories and public health warnings.

Paul Zimba, Ph.D., Director of Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, will reveal recent research findings on brevetoxin — the toxin released by red tide cells — and its affects on humans and wildlife.

Cost for the training is $10 payable to the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalist. Registration is required and seating is limited. To register for the workshop, call Diane Abbott at the Coastal Studies Lab, 956-761-2644.

HAB training is also one of three courses required for volunteers seeking certification as Texas Coastal Naturalists — a new program that prepares volunteers in the Laguna Madre area to be first responders to coastal natural emergencies like cold stunned sea turtle strandings, marine mammal strandings and oil tainted wildlife. Current Red Tide Rangers and Coastal Naturalists are invited to take the HAB training as a refresher or as a continuation of the three courses, free of charge.

The Red Tide Ranger and Texas Coastal Naturalist programs provide a volunteer base for the Coastal Studies Lab, Sea Turtle Inc. and the Cameron County Extension Service. In 2006, the Red Tide Rangers were honored with a Gulf Guardian Award from the Gulf of Mexico Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their work during a major red tide bloom in 2005.

Both the Red Tide Ranger and Texas Coastal Naturalist programs are sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Chapter Texas Master Naturalists, Texas Sea Grant College Program, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, TPWD’s Harmful Algal Bloom Working Group, the Gladys Porter Zoo and The University of Texas at Brownsville. 

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.