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Red Tide Task Force Gets Reactivated

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Englewood to announce the members of the Red Tide Task Force
Florida Governor's Office
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Englewood to announce the members of the Red Tide Task Force

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced the appointments of 11 researchers to a reinvigorated task force looking into combating red tide. The most recent red tide outbreak was the longest one in memory.

The governor reactivated the red tide task force, which hasn't been funded for 15 years. State lawmakers have given the effort $4.8 million. During a news conference in Sarasota County, the governor said it will add to another project based at Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratorythat will monitor red tide's effect on the coastal environment.

"They're going to be looking at the red tide on the front end, and the Mote Marine initiative is going to be looking at it on the back end - if you do have red tide, what can you do so you don't have the same damage that we've had in the past year, year and a half," he said.

The red tide projects are in addition to another task force looking to fight off blue-green algae, which mainly affects fresh water. State lawmakers this year have given $680 million dollars for water projects and Everglades restoration.

Here are the members of the new task force:

Dr. Donald Anderson

Dr. Don Anderson is a Senior Scientist in the Biology Department of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He earned three degrees from MIT – a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Anderson is the former director of WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute, and serves as Director of the Cooperative Institute for North Atlantic Research. Dr. Anderson also serves as Director of the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms.

Dr. Duane De Freese

Dr. Duane De Freese serves as the Executive Director of the IRL Council, an independent Special District of Florida and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.  Dr. De Freese holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Rhode Island and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Biology from Florida Institute of Technology.

Dr. Quay Dortch

Dr. Quay Dortch manages two National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration programs that provide federal funding for research on the causes and impacts and prevention, control and mitigation of harmful algal blooms. She received her B.A. in Chemistry from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, M.S. in Chemistry from Indiana University and Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Oceanography.

Jill Fleiger

Ms. Jill Fleiger is an Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture. She received her B.S. in Animal Biology from University of Alberta and M.S. degree in Chemical Oceanography from Florida State University.

Dr. Leanne Flewelling

Dr. Leanne Flewelling is the Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration Section Leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, directing research groups focused on harmful algal blooms, fish and wildlife health, and Florida’s diverse terrestrial and aquatic habitats. She earned her M.S. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Massachusetts and her Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of South Florida.

Dr. Charles Jacoby

Dr. Charles Jacoby is the Supervising Environmental Scientist for the Estuaries Section at the St. Johns River Water Management District. Dr. Jacoby has over 40 years of experience in designing, conducting, and interpreting research that guides management of natural resources, and he has led or co-led projects worth over $30 million dollars.

Dr. Barb Kirkpatrick

Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick is the Executive Director for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observation System. She has more than 35 years of experience in human and environmental epidemiology and started her career as a Respiratory Care Supervisor at Duke University Medical Center before going on to receive a master’s degree in Health Occupations Education at North Carolina State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Sarasota.

Dr. Sherry Larkin

Dr. Sherry Larkin is a natural resource and environmental economist tenured in the Food and Resource Economics Department at UF. Her main area of interest involves projects relating to the sustainable use of marine resources. She earned her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from Oregon State University and has been a faculty member at UF/IFAS since 2000.


Andrew Reich

Mr. Andrew Reich is the scientific advisor to the Chief of the Bureau of Environmental Health at Florida Department of Health. Mr. Reich has a M.S. degree in Public Health from the University of Alabama in Birmingham as well as a master’s degree in Medical Science from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia with a concentration in Intensive Care Medicine.

Rhonda Watkins

Miss Rhonda Watkins is a Principal Environmental Specialist with Collier County Pollution Control. She has been monitoring red tide for nearly 26 years and has participated in various research programs and grant panels involving red tide. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Wittenberg University with focused studies in limnology and aquatic biology including special studies in oceanography and marine biology completed at Duke University.

David Whiting

Mr. David Whiting works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the Deputy Director over the Laboratory and Water Quality Standards Programs within the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. Dave has a B.A. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management and a M.A. in Ecology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.