Scarborough’s Fluid Imaging Technologies helped identify the type of algae blooming off Florida’s east coast this summer that has caused some communities to declare a state of emergency. Some municipalities have banned activities, such as swimming, in water where the algae has bloomed.

A sample of the algae from the St. Lucie River near Fort Pierce was sent to Fluid Imaging, which used the company’s FlowCam Cyano device to identify the culprit behind the bloom – microcystis, a type of toxic cyanobacteria. The device quickly detects and identifies thousands of algal cells, and can differentiate between those that are harmless and the toxic ones that pose a threat to human health and safety, according to a media release from the company. Proprietary software allows further characterization using 30 different parameters involving size, shape and color.

“It’s very common for one species of cyanobacteria to take over a body of water to the exclusion of other species,” said Harry Nelson, vice president of aquatic markets for Fluid Imaging.

Fluid Imaging scientists said algae can also bloom in public water supplies and affect the taste, odor and safety of drinking water. The company said more than 50 towns and cities use its device to detect and track the growth of alga and help determine if treatment or warnings are needed.