Mote Marine Laboratory's Beach Conditions Reporting System, or BCRS, is a website and accompanying mobile app first developed by Mote Marine Laboratory in 2006. The BCRS currently collects and disperses beach conditions from 48 locations along the coast of Florida and Alabama, and we are working to expand this system into other areas. The BCRS is completely dependent on a network of trained and dedicated volunteers (Beach Ambassadors) who submit reports 1-2 times per daily, 4-7 days per week (with morning and weekend reports being a priority). BCRS reports include parameters such as beach flag color, water surface temperature, surf type, wave height, crowds, debris, etc., as well as parameters for dead fish and respiratory irritation commonly associated with the occurrence of Florida red tide. Reports also include information that is automatically pulled from an external API, such as wind speed and direction, UV index, sunrise and sunset times, air temperature, low/high tide times, etc.
The BCRS has become a go-to for locals and tourists alike for checking the conditions at their local beach before making plans or heading out for any activities. The website alone drew over 1,000,000 individual users from around the world and over 4 million total page views during the 2018-2019 Florida red tide bloom, and saw comparable usage during early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when many beaches were closed to the public or just beginning to reopen. In addition to environmental conditions the BCRS also displays location amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, barbecue grills, restrooms, etc., and other local resources truly making it a one-stop-shop for any beachgoer.
Not only does this program engage the community in scientific observation and aid the public in making informed decisions that can both protect their health and improve their overall beach experience, the information collected through the BCRS is also shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for long term monitoring and potential forecasting efforts of Florida red tide and its effects.
In addition to providing beach conditions information, the BCRS also aims to educate the public through the new BCRS Education Portal (found under the Education tab on the website and app). This new Education Portal includes frequently asked questions about the BCRS, Florida red tide, and bacteria in recreational waterways, and also provides downloadable infographics and educational videos.