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New advancements take aim at fight against toxic algae in local waterways

New advancements take aim at fight against toxic algae in local waterways (CBS12)

A local team of researchers rolls up their sleeves to roll out new technology that may change the way scientists go after toxic blue-green algae across South Florida.

Scientists with FAU Harbor Branch are coming up with a new 3D holographic waterproof camera that will identify and monitor toxic algae in our local waterways.

Research Associate Malcolm McFarland shows CBS12 News extreme close-up photos of algae that were collected by the new technology.

"They're really diverse," he said. "They're really interesting. They're some really crazy looking creatures out there. They look like aliens from another planet. You'd never known they even existed if you didn't start looking through a microscope."

The camera, which can operate underwater for a month-long deployment, collects three images per second. The data collecting software allows researchers to examine species of algae without the need to collect the samples by hand for a traditional three-day water sampling process.

"It's important to have a good handle on what species are out there," McFarland said. "How they're growing; when they're growing; so that we can better understand to prevent this harmful algal blooms."

Those toxic algae blooms have negatively affected many waterfront businesses on the Treasure Coast.

"When that algae moves in and it starts to decay, and the microorganisms and the other bacteria is a result of that, you don't even want to sit here," said Rufous Wakeman, the owner of Royal Palm Village of Cottages on Jensen Beach. "You want to get out of here. You don't want to be here."

When asked how it has impacted business, Wakeman said, "Have we lost business as a result of it? Absolutely. I have fishing Guide friends who have lost a hundred days of fishing a year, which is devastating."

He's happy to hear of the new technology that may better detect and track the toxic, green slime.

"It's all bad. So any technology. I don't care what it is or who makes it. It can come from Mars," Wakeman said. "Just get it here and let's implement it to reduce these toxic discharges and ensure the population clean water."