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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Dardet

FAU Professor Receives Grant to Study the Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on Endangered Sea Turtles

BOCA RATON, FL (November 22, 2011) – Sarah Milton, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of biological sciences within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University, has received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.  The grant will support a three-year, multidisciplinary research project to study the effects of harmful algal blooms (HABs), also known as Florida red tides, on endangered sea turtles.

Substantial research already exists on Karenia brevis, which is the organism that forms HABs, and its toxins.  These toxins have been associated with adverse human health effects, and massive fish and marine mammal deaths.  Other than mortality and general symptoms of lethargy and muscle weakness, though, the effects of the toxin exposure on sea turtle health are not well understood. 

“Toxic HABs are increasing in frequency and geographic spread,” said Milton, who serves as principal investigator on the project. “Exposure to these outbreaks is a major threat to sea turtles off the coast of Florida, where HABs often occur. Understanding the effects will enable us to outline effective treatment plans that can be used in numerous rehabilitation centers in aquariums around the southeastern United States.”

Collaborating investigators include Gregory Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D., from the Georgia Aquarium and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU; Deborah Fauquier, D.V.M., M.P.V.M. and Catherine J. Walsh, Ph.D., both from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota; and Leanne Flewelling, Ph.D., from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

“This project is a prime example of how FAU science faculty, like Sarah, are leading the way in using expertise and facts to solve pressing marine and coastal issues,” said Gary W. Perry, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science at FAU.

The NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research is part of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS).  Its mission is to support achievement of NOAA’s coastal missions by providing cutting–edge research, scientific information and tools that help balance ecological, social and economic goals.

For more information, contact Sarah Milton, Ph.D., at 561-297-3327 or


Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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