WARC Scientists Honored for Decades of Research on Florida Manatee
U.S. Geological Survey scientists have been honored as Recovery Champions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Region for their long-term research efforts on the Florida manatee.
Four members of the USGS’ Wetland and Aquatic Research Center’s Sirenia Project are recipients of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Southeast Region 2017 Recovery Champions Award, which honors FWS employees and partners for their efforts to advance the recovery of species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Bob Bonde (Emeritus), Cathy Beck, Howard Kochman, and Jim Reid have been recognized for their four decades of research on the Florida manatee that helped inform the decision by FWS to reclassify the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened.
The USGS scientists have devoted their careers to studying the biology, life history, and ecological requirements of the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. The scientific achievements of the manatee researchers are internationally recognized and the groundbreaking methodologies and tools developed by the team are used by partners involved in sirenian science and conservation worldwide. The research of the USGS scientists and their partners has been essential for FWS and State management actions leading to the recovery of the species.
For more information on USGS’ manatee science, please visit: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/wetland-and-aquatic-research-center-warc/science-topics/manatees
Population models developed by USGS are the primary decision-support tools used for status assessments, and rely on estimates of adult survival and reproduction rates from mark-recapture studies.
The Challenge: Florida manatees are threatened by watercraft-related mortality, the potential loss of warmwater habitat, red tide events, and other anthropogenic factors. The USFWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have regulatory authorities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and state statutes to recover manatees. To...
Modeling Past Variation in Florida Manatee Survival, Breeding, and Movements Rates to Establish Baselines for Aquatic Ecosystem and Restoration Research
Long-term monitoring data in the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), developed and coordinated by WARC-Sirenia Project in collaboration with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, are the basis for modeling manatee demography rates.
Nuclear microsatellite markers have been developed and implemented on ~2,000 West Indian manatees. These markers provide individual genetic fingerprints for mark-recapture studies, population structure information for the conservation of unique or isolated populations, and pedigree and relatedness information for addressing inbreeding and breeding structure patterns.
A multi-agency effort assesses the health of manatees and provides baseline information on their health, reproductive status, and nutritional condition.
Since 1978, USGS scientists have photo-documented manatees in the Southeast United States. Now, more than 3,000 manatees can be found in the MIPS database.
Manatees are tropical to subtropical in distribution and, with few exceptions, Florida is the northern limit of their natural winter range. The availability of warm-water habitat during winter is critical for the future persistence of the population in Florida.
USGS works with partners to assess manatee distribution and habitat use throughout the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
Monitoring and Assessing Effects of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP) on the Florida Manatee
Critical information predicting condition changes in manatee habitat resulting from the alteration of freshwater flows to estuaries is needed to develop the PSRP Detailed Design and PSRP Operations Plan components and complete consultation under the Endangered Species Act.
Seagrass Beds and Manatee Foraging Areas in the Ten Thousand Islands: Mapping and Characterizing by Incorporating Manatee GPS Tracking Data and Habitat Information
Turbid water conditions make the delineation and characterization of benthic habitats difficult by traditional in situ and remote sensing methods. Consequently, only a small fraction of this valuable resource has been mapped or characterized.
Florida’s iconic manatee population is highly likely to endure for the next 100 years, so long as wildlife managers continue to protect the marine mammals and their habitat, a new study by the US Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has found.
It may be hard to believe the legend that sailors long-at-sea once believed manatees to be mermaids. The manatee nickname the “Sea Cow” – named so for their affinity for grazing on vegetation and their slow, ambling way – just makes more sense. But a new U.S. Geological Survey video reveals that while they may be cow-like, they also have more than a bit of magical mermaid to them.