Senior Research Associate
To assess the ecological consequences of anthropogenic impacts on Florida’s coastal habitats, integrated technologies are required to monitor key species and environmental correlates. Manatees are a Florida icon whose habitat has been radically altered by humans through dredging canals, destroying seagrass beds, and creating artificial warm-water habitat. Manatees appear particularly sensitive to water temperature regime with the projected loss of warm-water sources (i.e., power plants) on the one hand and the devastating effects of winter cold fronts on the other contributing to listing the manatee as threatened and “having a very high risk of extinction.”
Preliminary evidence indicates that the Harbor Branch channel plays a vital role as a thermal refuge, with >100 manatees congregated in the basin during recent winter cold fronts. The goal of this research is to develop an integrated system using existing (photo-identification) and new (remote sensing) techniques to continuously monitor manatee behavior and habitat.