It’s red tide season here in Florida. So far, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports no signs of it in the Tampa Bay Area.

What You Need To Know

  • It's red tide season

  • So far, there hasn't been a lot found

  • The government relies on local volunteers to measure water quality

However, small amounts were detected in a water sample taken 15 miles off the coast of Collier County in Southwest Florida. FWC will continue to monitor the area and a big part of its monitoring program is sampling done by volunteers.

Karen Henschen runs the volunteer program and said 30% of the samples FWC gets come from volunteers all around the state. There are about 400 total, reaching locations staff wouldn’t be able to get to as frequently.

“They’re a great help. We couldn’t do it without them,” Henschen said. “We don’t have that many boats or that many employees to be out there like they are.”

Bob Smith of Clearwater Beach is one of those volunteers. He moved to the area just before the start of the pandemic in 2020. The lack of jobs led him into early retirement. To keep busy, he bought a boat and began volunteering for different organizations. Smith said once he learned about the FWC’s volunteer program, he was eager to become one of their community scientists.

“As a private citizen, without a Phd., I can actually contribute to science,” Smith said.

Henschen said FWC is always looking for more volunteers. For more information on the Community Scientists Monitoring for Red Tide program, you can visit the agency’s website.