Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Graham A. Tobin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Martin Bosman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark R. Hafen, Ph.D.


Social amplification, Halo effect, Harmful algal blooms, Natural hazards, Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, Aerosolized toxins


This research integrates the theoretical implications of risk perception, the social amplification of risk, and the role of place-specific contexts, in order to explore the various perceptions surrounding Florida red tides. Florida red tides are a naturally-occurring event, yet most scientists agree that they are increasing in frequency, duration, and severity. This has profound implication for public health, the local economy, and the biological community. While many of the negative impacts are not easily controllable at this time, some of the secondary impacts can be mitigated through individuals' responses. Unfortunately, public perceptions and consequent reactions to red tides have not been investigated. This research uses questionnaire surveys, semi-structured interviews, and newspaper content analysis to explore the various perceptions of risk surrounding red tides. Surveys and interviews were conducted along two Florida west coast beaches, Fort De Soto Park and Siesta Key. Results indicate that the underlying foundations of the social amplification of risk framework are applicable to understanding how individuals form perceptions of risk relative to red tide events. There are key differences between the spatial locations of individuals and corresponding perceptions, indicating that place-specific contexts are essential to understanding how individuals receive and interpret risk information. The results also suggest that individuals may be lacking efficient and up-to-date information about red tides and their impacts due to inconsistent public outreach. Overall, particular social and spatial factors appear to be more influential as to whether individuals amplify or attenuate the risks associated with red tides.