TAMPA, Fla. — A University of South Florida professor has adapted an instrument and created a first-of-its-kind test to help predict and speed up the process of detecting red tide.

Dr. John Paul, distinguished professor of biological oceanography, has created a test that can detect Karenia Brevis, the organism that causes red tide.

"It's a pretty nasty one. I think this is the kind we get only five to 10 years," Paul said.

"There are a lot of human health risks with red tide and people want to plan their vacations accordingly," he said.

Paul affectionately calls it "The Red Tide Tricorder."

It is the first hand-held device that can check for red tide in the field, providing results directly to researchers and government agencies.

The instrument can run up to eight samples at once and cuts detection time in half.

"This sample is very abundant because we can see it goes from a flatline to an increase in about 15 minutes," Paul said.

The technology helps speed up the decision-making process in closing beaches and shellfish harvesting beds.

"The Shellfish industry wants to know when they can open their beds safely and provide safe seafood to the people in the state of Florida and basically the whole country," Paul said.

While researchers still don't know exactly when the red tide will be gone, Paul hopes the instrument will help identify areas to stay away from.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said there are still high concentrations of red tide in Manatee County. Low concentrations have been detected in Pinellas County.