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Student Researcher Investigates Exposure to Red Tide from Seafood

Red tide is an unpleasant but regularly occurring phenomenon along coastlines, including Florida’s Gulf Coast. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Environmental Science Ph.D. Candidate Krystal Pree is working to find out the extent to which people who harvest fish and shellfish along the coast are aware of and exposed to toxins associated with “red tides.”

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Ms. Pree’s work at FAMU is supported under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Educational Partnership Program.

Florida red tides occur annually throughout the Gulf of Mexico due to blooms from the particular marine microorganism called Karenia brevis, but it is only one of various types of harmful algal blooms (HABs) that occur in Florida, Pree explains. At high concentrations, red tides can cause the water to become discolored with a red pigmentation, but depending on the type of algae present, the water can also be brown, green or even yellow. K. brevis is one of the most serious HABs in Florida because it produces toxins called brevetoxins that have a detrimental effect on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.

People who are exposed may suffer from skin irritation, burning eyes and respiratory problems. Toxins produced by harmful algal blooms that create red tides do not lose their toxicity when fish or shellfish is cooked, so people who consume contaminated shellfish can experience Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP). Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, lack of motor coordination, and tingling of fingers or toes.

Ms. Pree’s research seeks to further understanding about how people engaged in recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting become aware of occasions when incidents of red tide take place. Using interviews and surveys, Ms. Pree is looking to discover more about how fishers’ knowledge, beliefs, experiences, purpose for fishing, and characteristics may play a role in their exposure when harmful algal blooms prompt closures of recreational shellfish harvesting areas.

Pree’s research investigates whether NSP is misdiagnosed and under-reported. Her findings could help devise ways to better inform residents and tourists in the future so that they can avoid being sickened. Pree is also researching whether certain population sub-groups may be more at risk to exposure than others. Her research is based in in southwest Florida’s Lee County. sifting samples2

Pree believes that if there are more surveys conducted to understand the interactions between humans and the environment, as well as background knowledge provided to residents, then the risks of exposure could be decreased. Her project fits within a broader desire to focus her talents upon creating healthier environments, especially for low-income and minority communities.

“Ultimately, I’m seeking to improve awareness about environmental contamination and natural resource issues, particularly those affecting low-income and minority communities” Pree explains.

Pree delivered a poster presentation about her work at the Association for Environmental Sciences and Studies (AESS) Conference at American University in Washington, D.C., June 8-11. Her future career goals include environmental consulting, compliance and monitoring as well as teaching and mentoring at the University level.

 

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FAMU Hosts Vice Chancellor from Leading Indian Agricultural University

Dr. N. C. Patel, vice chancellor of Anand Agricultural University, Gujarat, India, spent a day at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University meeting with deans, faculty, and officials to discuss how the two universities can collaborate on research and service to advance solutions for sustainable agriculture. The visit was facilitated by the FAMU Sustainability Institute.

FAMU’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute Abena Ojetayo said “we are very pleased with this partnership in India, a nation with great promise in sustainable development. These relations help us share expertise and experiences that lead to real impact at home here in Florida and for communities across the ocean.”

“Ultimately we want to see that the people on the globe have sufficient food, energy, and a clean environment. In the context of that, universities play a strong role,” said Dr. Patel.

The universities are exploring establishing student and faculty exchanges and undertaking collaborative research in areas including crop production, soil science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, climate and meteorological sciences, and renewable energy. Patel’s visit is a component of FAMU’s Memorandum of Understanding with India’s National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) to promote solutions in sustainability, agriculture, climate change, and other STEM areas.

“We are brainstorming to see how we can solve these global issues together,” said Dr. Odemari Mbuya, faculty director of the Sustainability Institute. Dr. Mbuya, along with FAMU Professor Mehboob Sheikh, Ph.D., had just returned from a similar visit to India to various universities, organizations, and farms to give guest lectures and plan collaboration efforts.

The Dean of CAFS, Dr. Robert Taylor, welcomed Dr. Patel warmly. “We’re very sincere about these initiatives we want to develop with you and we are looking forward to what we can do with you.”

In addition to meeting with faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Dr. Patel met with University President Dr. Elmira Mangum, Provost Marcella David, Vice President for International Education Dr. William Hyndman, Vice President for Research Dr. Tim Moore, and deans and faculty from other colleges and sschools. Dr. Patel concluded the day’s visit with a tour of the renowned FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruits.

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New EnergyWaterFoodNexus Science Enterprise Launched at FAMU

Florida A&M University hosted the inaugural EnergyWaterFoodNexus Summit, an international conference that connected a global network of over 300 researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders working in the energy, water, and food sectors. Participants from as far away as South Africa, Hungary, and India joined local and regional attendees to share knowledge. Led by the FAMU School of the Environment with collaboration from the Sustainability Institute and several colleges and schools, the summit also included co-sponsors from the City of Tallahassee’s Environmental Policy & Energy Resources division, the US Department of Energy ARPA-E as well as private sector contributors like SalterMitchell and Yum! Brands.

The EnergyWaterFoodNexus is a new science enterprise launched at FAMU through an international, public-private partnership that seeks to provide sustainable and innovative solutions global security.

During the summit, participants from various disciplines had the chance to learn about and work together to tackle complex issues affecting every community. The lineup of renowned speakers included Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, New York Times best-selling author of “The Big Thirst” Charles Fishman and European Commission head of innovation Istvan Kenyeres.

Summit chair and dean of the FAMU School of the Environment Dr. Victor Ibeanusi explained the purpose of the EWFN.

“The intent of the EWFN is to brand this as a new science enterprise designed to provide solutions to the global energy, water and food crisis,” Ibeanusi said. “Students can also interact with international leaders in agriculture, business research, technology and more."

Odemari Mbuya, faculty director for the FAMU Sustainability Institute and professor in the center for water and air quality ensured that there are solutions to these globally vexing problem.

“Energy, water, and food, they are all related,” Mbuya said. “There are problems which cover all those three … so we are looking for solutions."

Kirit Shelat, the chair of India’s National Council for Climate Change and Sustainability Development, led a contingency of scientists and agronomist from India to attend the summit. The NCCSD signed a memorandum of understanding with FAMU to collaborate on research, faculty and student exchanges.

Speaking on the prospects of the MOU between the two organizations, Shelat said “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to climate smart agriculture and smart city management for its replication in India.”

Mbuya explained the importance of working internationally with various organizations.

“We need to work together, which is the purpose of the memorandum of understanding. We can work with people in different parts of the world and gain the right tools to better control [our global environment]… If we can better predict upcoming changes, we can plan appropriate mitigation,” Mbuya said.

The summit presented several themes and tracks for participants, discovering emerging innovations, understand policy implications and accelerate technology. Furthermore, Idea Hack sessions aimed at solving complex problems that require multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives brought together multidisciplinary young and experienced collaborators to “pitch” a challenge and open up for an informal brainstorming session. 

Learn more about the EWFN science enterprise at FAMU at http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?environmentalscience&EnergyWaterFoodNexus

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Sustainability @ FAMU

Sustainability at Florida A&M University is about the teaching, research and application of environmental and resource stewardship so people and planet prosper. The Sustainability Institute serves as the hub of all sustainability-related efforts at the university, bringing students, staff, faculty and the community together around creative collaborations.

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