Has a Longboat Key retiree solved the puzzle of the red tide?
Not every Longboat senior spends lazy days playing golf and lounging by the pool. Since he retired to the key in 2002, after a long career at General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lenny Landau has earned a reputation for deep dives into complex issues affecting the region. Dubbed “the data king of Longboat Key” by an island newspaper, the determined 76-year-old mechanical engineer has immersed himself in white papers, scientific abstracts and studies most of us would find dry and daunting, learning about topics from beach erosion to sewer systems. He says he likes to reflect on his research and “put the puzzle together” while riding his bike along Gulf of Mexico Drive or walking his 160-pound English mastiff.
The puzzle that has consumed Landau for the past several years is red tide. A few months ago, he talked about his findings at a seminar at USF Sarasota-Manatee that was presented in partnership with the Global Interdependence Center and Cumberland Advisors. Landau likes to stress that he is not a scientist, but seminar moderator and meteorologist Bob Bunting, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, says Landau has done something scientists haven’t done—and aren’t meant to do. “Their mission is discoveries, and not translation and application,” says Bunting. “Landau has unearthed the puzzle pieces, many buried here and there, and put them together in a way that people can understand and begin to act on.”
About two years ago, Landau began studying the possible effects of climate change—particularly sea level rise—on our region. As serious as such issues are, he says, people tend to avoid dealing with them because they think they won’t suffer dire consequences during their lifetimes. But when he came across research linking climate change to red tide, he realized this was an issue that was already impacting us.