Florida red tide experts list

Miami-Dade closed beaches north of the Haulover inlet Thursday morning after confirming the presence of red tide in ocean waters. Earlier this week, Florida environmental officials confirmed the presence of red tide off the coast of Palm Beach County. A rare occurrence for the east coast, the toxic algae could have implications for the environment, businesses, the tourism industry, politics and the health of beachgoers. In August, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency due to Florida red tide in seven Gulf Coast counties. The red bloom on the west coast first appeared last fall and continued through the summer, leaving discolored, smelly water and dead wildlife in its tracks.

Below is a list of FIU experts are available to talk about how Florida red tide blooms form and their impacts on wildlife and people. FIU professors have also identified six things to know about red tide. To learn more, please click here.

For help reaching these experts, please contact FIU’s Office of Media Relations at 305-348-2232 or

  • Madeline Baro, associate director, media relations: 305-348-2234 or mbaro@fiu.edu
  • Dianne Fernandez, broadcast media manager, media relations: 305-608-4870 or dfernand37@fiu.edu
  • Ayleen Barbel Fattal, account manager for the College of Arts, Sciences & Education: 305-348-4492, abarbel@fiu.edu
  • Evelyn S. Gonzalez, account manager for the College of Arts, Sciences & Education: 305-348-4493, esgonzal@fiu.edu
  • Ileana Varela, associate director for marketing and public relations at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine: 305-348-4926 or ilvarela@fiu.edu
  • Ellen Forman, associate director for the College of Business: 305-348-4887, epforman@fiu.edu

Red Tide

Kathleen Rein
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kathleen Rein is a professor in FIU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her research focuses on algal toxins including the organism that causes the Florida red tide.  As the director of FIU’s Advanced Research Cooperation in Environmental Health program, which was supported by a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Rein helped to address a wide array of issues related to harmful algal blooms. She can discuss what is the Florida red ride, what causes it and its potential effects on marine life. She can speak to potential routes of exposure to algal toxins, their persistence in the environment, and their effects on human and animal health. Rein has a Ph.D. from the University of Miami.

Kevin O’Shea
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Kevin O’Shea is a professor in FIU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He can speak to the environmental and biological effects of Florida red tide, as well as its impacts on human health. O’Shea is a chemist with an interest in organic, environmental and analytical chemistry. His research is focused on the assessment and treatment of harmful contaminants in water, including the potent toxins present in red tide and blue-green algae blooms. His research projects have been funded from a variety of agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. O’Shea has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Stephen Leatherman
Department of Earth and Environment
Stephen Leatherman is a coastal environmental scientist in FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment. He can speak to how red tide forms, its impacts on water quality and environmental health, its effects on wildlife and plant life, and remediation efforts. Leatherman is an expert in sea-level rise impacts, storm impacts, beach erosion and rip currents. He has written or edited 20 books and National Academy of Science reports, as well as more than 200 articles and reports on coastal issues. He was the first director of the International Hurricane Research Center at FIU. Leatherman is known to the public as “Dr. Beach” for his annual ranking the country’s “Top 10 Beaches,” some of which are currently plagued by Florida red tide.

John Berry
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
John Berry is an Associate Professor in FIU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He can speak to the toxicity of Florida Red Tide, and other marine and freshwater algae, and the toxins’ effects on wildlife health and human health. Berry is a chemist with specialization on environmental chemistry and chemical toxicology/pharmacology. His research specifically focuses on the chemistry of toxic cyanobacteria, commonly known as “blue-green algae,” and their effects on the environment and human health. Berry received his Ph.D. from Cornell University, and received postdoctoral fellowships through the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH-NIEHS) at Cornell and the University of Miami (UM), respectively, and was subsequently an Associate Scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), before joining the faculty at FIU in 2006.

Tom Frankovich
Institute of Water and Environment
Tom Frankovich is an expert on water quality and algal communities where freshwater is discharged into Florida’s coastal estuaries. A marine ecologist and diatom taxonomist, Frankovich works in coastal marine communities relating water quality to seagrass, macroalgal, and diatom communities. His interests include investigations of seagrass die-off, underwater light availability and diatom taxonomy. He is currently monitoring water quality and algal communities where freshwater is discharged into Florida’s coastal estuaries.



Jeremy Kiszka
Marine Sciences Program
Jeremy Kiszka is a research scientist in FIU’s Marine Sciences Program. He can speak to the effects of Florida red tide on marine mammals, including manatees and dolphins. Kiszka’s research focuses on the ecology, behavior and conservation of large marine vertebrates, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. He has worked in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and South Pacific. He has authored numerous book chapters and articles in journals. Kiszka has a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the University of La Rochelle in France. He is fluent in French.


Aileen Marty, MD
Professor, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Dr. Marty is an infectious disease expert who can talk about how red tides can affect human health including the effects of swimming in red tides or eating tainted fish or shellfish.  She speaks English and Spanish.

Rebecca Toonkel, MD
Assistant Professor, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
Dr. Toonkel is an internal medicine specialist who can address red tide’s effects on human health. She also is board certified in critical care and pulmonary medicine which makes her uniquely qualified to discuss how red tide toxins dispersed in the air affect the respiratory system.

Jason Richardson
Associate Dean for Research in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work
Dr. Jason Richardson is a professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT) and a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS). His research has been continually funded throughout his career by the National Institutes of Health. Richardson’s research focuses on the role of environmental exposures and their interactions with age and genetic susceptibility as contributors to neurological disease using translational approaches. He has published more than 90 peer-reviewed publication and his expertise in toxicology is directly relevant to information related to effects of red tide on human and animal health.


Carolin Lusby
Assistant Professor, Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Carolin Lusby is an assistant professor in the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at FIU. Her areas of expertise include tourism and the environment, tourism and impacts, and experiential learning through travel. Lusby can speak about marine tourism in general, the causes of the algae bloom and potential remediation. She has published academic papers on ocean cruising, private and commercial cruising, sustainability in cruising, study abroad, understanding motivations and expectations of scuba divers, the Hispanic travel market, and other topics. She has also presented at academic conferences on a variety of topics, including ecotourism, community-based tourism, recreational boating, and sustainability in tourism and hospitality. Prior to her career in academia, Lusby worked in the tourism industry where she found her passion for using tourism as a tool for personal transformation. Lusby has a Ph.D. in Tourism Recreation and Sport Management from the University of Florida. She is fluent in German and French.


Brian Van Hook
Associate Director, Small Business Development Center at FIU
Brian Van Hook is Associate Director of Florida SBDC at FIU. Prior to joining Florida International University, Brian was policy director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, where he oversaw research and legislative activities. Previously, he served as a senate legislative assistant advising on issues related to disaster recovery, economic development, and international trade. A native of Louisiana, Brian has nine years of experience with disaster recovery and business continuity. Brian received his M.S. in International Affairs from Florida State University and his B.A. from Louisiana State University. He is a certified Business Continuity Professional.