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Sargassum Issues and Solutions - Event


Sharing environmental news, technology updates about our stormwater filters, and ways to prevent ocean pollution. 

Sargassum Issues and Solutions - Event

Emilio Lopez

Sargassum is an important environmental resource, but it is impacting several communities in Florida and around the world. Join us to learn about and discuss Sargassum’s benefits and issues, and solutions to help alleviate problems in environmentally conscious ways.

Our first Sargassum Issues and Solutions Event took place on July 30, 2019 at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and via live webcast with participants from around the world. There were approximately 100 attendees in person and online.

Watch the video from the live webcast

July 30th Speakers

Dr. Ligia Collado-Vides


Presentation Title: Macroalgal blooms: unpredictable global, regional and local challenges that needs intelligent coordinated responses.

Dr. Ligia Collado-Vides is a marine botanist working at Florida International University; her research emphasis is on subtropical and tropical marine macroalgae, including ecological and floristic approaches. Her studies are on seagrass and reef ecosystems in South Florida and the Mexican Caribbean.

Her group monitors the organic and inorganic carbon contribution by Halimeda and Penicillus along a salinity and nutrient gradient, as part of the Florida Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program. She has been working with BBAP and Miami Dade County following the Anadyomene green macroalgal bloom in Biscayne Bay. Her groups is now conducting a monitoring program and is addressing impacts of the pelagic Sargassum species in South Florida and the Caribbean. Her group has also developed a Citizen Science monitoring network of Sargassum landings in South Florida and an international network of experts working on Sargassum. She teaches marine biology and management of coastal ecosystems, particularly in Marine Protected Areas.

Professor Maria J Olascoaga


Maria Josefina Olascoaga is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the Rosenstiel School. Her research focuses on the study of transport and mixing in the ocean. She has contributed to make the modern dynamical systems concept of Lagrangian Coherent Structures widely recognized by the international oceanographic community through her publications and meeting presentations, and the organization of scientific meetings and workshops.

Olascoaga teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Physical Oceanography, Introduction to Marine Science, Modeling of Physical-Biological Interactions, and Lagrangian Fluid Dynamics and Predictability. She advises graduate students in the Ocean Sciences program.

Dr. Valentina Caccia

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Presentation Title: Essential information to develop a Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan to deal with the Sargassum in Florida Beaches.

Dr. Valentina Caccia is an Oceanographer with a Ph.D. in Marine Science specialized in Chemical Oceanography.  Her research focuses on trace metals, nutrients and water quality parameters in the marine environment.  She worked for several years at RSMAS, UM and SERC, FIU conducting environmental studies to evaluate the pollution that affects coastal and marine ecosystems in South Florida.  She has participated in many worldwide oceanographic cruises doing scientific research focused on Marine Pollution & Climate Change. 

Dr. Caccia is working at Nova Southeastern University teaching graduate courses in Marine Chemistry, Marine Pollution, Climate Change, and Marine and Coastal Processes.  She has great scientific curiosity and seeks out projects that can solve real problems confronting the world.  Therefore, she has worked for different sectors (academia, government, consulting companies & non-profits) developing, coordinating and implementing diverse marine projects.  She is interested in finding the causes of the Sargassum blooms, and characterizing the chemical composition of Sargassum to develop a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan.

 Research Group: Dr. Peter Swart and Dr. Amanda Oehlert

Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele

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Presentation Title:  Associations between beach wrack (Sargassum) and bacteria at a coastal beach.

 Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Miami and the Associate Dean for Research within the College of Engineering. Her area of expertise is in contaminant transport – contaminants in the environment and how they move.  In the context of beaches she evaluates the sources, persistence, and releases of bacteria from coastal zones. 

At beaches, the source of bacteria is many times the beach sand, with the hot spot area just above the high tide wrack line.  Her team has recently initiated as study to evaluate relationships between water, sand, and beach wrack (Sargassum) bacteria levels. She will be presenting the preliminary results from this study.  Dr. Solo-Gabriele also has an active research project focusing on children’s risks during play at beaches.  This study, in collaboration with North Carolina A&T and the University of Texas School of Public Health, specifically focuses on documenting child beach play activities and using this information to strengthen risk assessments.

Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele will be joined during her presentation by Mr. Peter Sahwell, and MS candidate of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  Mr. Sahwell is a team member who is conducting the study evaluating the associations between bacteria levels in beach sand, water, and wrack.

Emilio Lopez - SOP Technologies

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Emilio Lopez is CEO of SOP Technologies. He co-founded the company after patenting a new technology to prevent debris and pollution from entering natural bodies of water.

Emilio works with municipal Public Works departments, Stormwater Engineers, Environmental community members and technology companies to design and build solutions to address global pollution issues. 

Emilio is a seasoned speaker, has diverse experience with both Fortune 500 companies and tech startups, and is knowledgeable in the areas of physical and digital technologies.

Duane Bennish - Elastec


Sales Manager for Elastec’s Floating Boom division in Cocoa, Florida, Duane has a decade of experience in the design, development and installation of geosynthetic barriers and turbidity curtains. A world traveler originating from Hershey, Pennsylvania, Duane has worked with a variety of global applications such as jellyfish and shark nets; as well as brine shrimp, cranberry and aquatic weed booms.

In 2015, Duane received an Elastec Innovation Award for Beach Bouncer, a mesh-skirted boom designed to deflect sargassum from Caribbean beaches. His recent Brute Boom concept is a heavy-duty barrier to contain trash and debris from dam intakes and other waterways. Recently, Duane’s turbidity curtain project near the Golden Gate Bridge was selected as one of the top three finalists for the California Department of Transportation’s Sustainable/Environmental Enhancement Project of the Year Award.



Mr. Joe Gonzalez is an Oceanographer with degrees from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, UBAC. His specialization is in the area of biological oceanography, and has participated in several marine conservation programs. He has been a diving instructor for 25 years. In Cancun, Mexico, he has worked in the area of tourism since 2001, and on issues relating to Sargassum since 2015. Regarding Sargassum issues, he is a member of the “Consejo Técnico Asesor” (Technical Advisory Team). He is a member of the technical team for the ports of Morelos and Tulum. With the company Anclamarina, he specializes in the placement of anchors underwater, in order to support the placement of barriers to hold back Sargassum.