Water-Related News

New device to help FGCU better study red tide, blue-green algae

A tool with a memorable name is helping us understand our water quality in Southwest Florida.

The Water School at FGCU has a new friend in the fight against harmful algal blooms in our backyard: It’s a robot nicknamed Sylvia that’s monitoring what’s in our water.

Think of it as an underwater surveillance camera, or a camera that you can dip in the water to get a better look. It can collect water samples while telling us what’s in them.

“We decided to name her Sylvia after Dr. Sylvia Earle,” explained Hannah Sims, a research graduate assistant at The Water School.

Earle was the first female chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a renowned marine biologist.

FGCU’s Sylvia is one of the university’s latest tools to combat the water crisis.

“So Sylvia basically is a microscope camera,” said professor Mike Parsons with The Water School. “Sylvia will be able to take water samples and look to see if there are harmful algae or other algae present. And then because of this library, it’ll be able to identify and count them.”

Through recognition software, Sylvia can look at organisms in water samples or eventually in open water and tell us what they are.