Dr. Alex Brylske is a college professor, consultant and accomplished journalist whose career for more than 30 years has centered on dive training, program development and marine science research.
So when and where did this Maryland native first discover the wonders of underwater life?
“At Sombrero Reef in August of 1968 on vacation with my parents,” he laughed heartily.
One of three children, Brylske grew up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, so the water and its depths have long been a major part of his life.
After serving as an adjunct professor and program consultant for Florida Keys Community College from 1986-88, Brylske recently joined the faculty as a Marine Science Instructor.
When the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, FKCC’s Environmental Club, led by Dr. Patrick Rice, Dean of Marine Science and Technology, was eager to know how they could get involved.
“They wanted to know what they could to help by volunteering their time,” Dr. Bryslke explained.
Rice coordinated with representatives from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the state’s DEP, NOAA and Monroe County commissioners among others to host a community forum in the library on the college’s campus last week. From local business owners to the Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West, more than 100 concerned citizens attended the forum in search of answers.
Brylske sat alongside Monroe County Mayor Sylvia Murphy and several environmental specialists, offering his insight as an expert on coral reef ecology.
Stating that he’s not an environmental toxicologist, Brylske said he couldn’t speak directly on the possibilities of what ecological impacts that oil would have on the Keys’ coral reef.
“Oil’s a natural product – it’s the dispersants they’re discussing right now that are the greater concern,” he explained. “There have been so few studies on how those could affect the coral reefs.”
Oil dispersants are chemical compounds like surfactants and solvents designed to reduce the effect oil spills and reduce the potential that a surface slick will contaminate shoreline habitats.
According to Brylske, his concern with the dispersants is that they are designed to put the oil “out of sight, out of mind,” but the detrimental effects will simply sink below the surface to the already fragile coral reefs below.
He continued that the problem with the Deepwater Horizon explosion is that it’s not a spill, “but a blowout.”
“With a spill, there’s a finite amount, but this is just continuing to flow right into the ocean,” he lamented.
Though he hated to admit it, Brylske said this was going to be a tremendous environmental catastrophe for years to come.
“I would hate to see the only jobs left in the Keys be disaster cleanup,” he noted.
The outlook may challenge us to find the bright points, but Bryslke and his wife, Deborah, of 32 years, have happily made their home on Summerland Key.
Between traveling to speak at conferences, writing for Dive Training magazine, teaching classes at FKCC as well as Edison State College online, Brylske manages his Instructional Technologies, Inc. consulting firm that provides education and training services to support diving safety, sustainable marine tourism and tropical marine resource management. Fortunately, his Introduction to Marine Biology and Introduction to Oceanography classes have regular labs that allow him to wet his fins at least once every two weeks.