Joint Institute at USF St. Petersburg Unites Medical and Marine Scientists to Improve Health of Gulf Coastal Populations

March 20, 2019 – As red tide devastated marine life and closed beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast, some experienced the impact from the massive algal bloom by way of respiratory ailments and emergency room visits. This is just one of many examples of how the environmental well-being of oceans can impact the health of human populations.

This intricate connection is the theme of the Ocean and Human Health Workshop, organized by the Joint Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at USF St. Petersburg and to be held at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital on Wednesday, March 27. The free public workshop will bring together marine scientists and public health officials to discuss the latest issues involving the Gulf of Mexico and how to coordinate data across the health-marine divide to better prepare coastal populations for events such as red tide outbreaks.

“The Gulf is the lifeblood of the Tampa Bay area, for recreation, for energy, for transportation, and it is time for us to better understand the connections of how the health of the Gulf is impacting the growing community around it,” said Bill Hogarth, former Dean of the USF College of Marine Science and Chairman of the Joint Institute.

The workshop has three main goals. The first is to create greater public awareness on how deteriorating ocean health, from pollution to climate change, can lead to health issues or the spread of infectious diseases. Secondly, it is to get health officials and marine scientists in the same room talking and connecting their data.

“Scientists who study the oceans and those who study human health don’t really speak the same language,” said Larry McKinney, Executive Director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Texas. “Let’s bring those scientists together and have a common dialect and begin working on what we know and don’t and where to collaborate.”

Finally, the Joint Institute hopes to identify key areas for future research that discern how coastal population health is affected by environmental impacts to the Gulf.

The Oceans and Human Health Workshop takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 27 in the Research and Education Building Auditorium of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. This event is free and open to the public.

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