FGCU student diving head first into water issues

One Florida Gulf Coast University student is tackling algae found in our area.

Clean water is vital for us – and the economy. For some people, it’s also culturally significant, and Kacy Rodriguez is making the connection from her ancestral roots to her water research.

The graduate student has always loved the water. “Growing up in Florida, being around water all the time, and then, of course, going to see my family every year down in Puerto Rico.”

Through her Taíno heritage, indigenous people of the Caribbean, she feels a special connection.

“They would take a bowl, and they would bathe themselves every day. And they would pray in four different directions to ask for different things from the different gods.”

One special body of water? The bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico.

“It’s really, really beautiful. You can take it in your hands and hold it up to the sky, and it looks like the stars.”

Algae drives the bay’s brightness and Rodriguez’s passion for research.

“As I continue to look into it, I was really interested in the toxin production of algae, of course, down here, there’s harmful algal blooms.”

Now, she researches toxin production and seasonality of algae in Lake Trafford in Collier County.

“It’s really exciting. And scientific communication is something that’s really important to me.”

She wants to conserve our water resources not only for our health, but for our connection to the water, too.

“Just get to the root of the problem and make sure we have clean water for all for people who, you know, of course, to drink and be healthy, but also to have these, this ability to practice cultural rituals.”

Rodriguez said she has processed a lot of her algae samples to save for later but she still has to run tests to see the toxins. She hopes to use a machine called a “FlowCytobot,” which counts the algae.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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