Red Tide Rangers are trained first responders for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), namely red tide, which is caused by the phytoplankton Karenia brevis. Karenia brevis contains a neurotoxin which affects humans and animals, and causes fish kills, discolored water, and respiratory irritation. During a red tide bloom, Rangers collect water samples, document environmental data, and complete analysis of samples to detect concentrations of Karenia brevis cells in coastal waters. Data collected by Red Tide Rangers is reported to TPWD HAB division and provides the State of Texas and federal government with valuable real-time data needed to manage public health and safety. The state uses the information to issue timely health advisories to the public, to fisherman, and to resource managers who regulate state waters, and commercial and recreational fisheries impacted by red tide. Their data are also used to provide critical ground truth to confirm bloom locations for NOAA’s Coastal Services Center and contribute to NOAA’s efforts to forecast red tides.
Red Tide Rangers provide this public service on a volunteer basis. Red Tide Rangers are part of the Coastal Naturalist program, which is sponsored by Texas Sea Grant, Cameron County, TPWD, Gladys Porter Zoo, Sea Turtle, Inc., and the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab.