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FAU Working to Help Save Manatees


FAU Working to Help Save Manatees

The health of our local waterways continues to be a priority for FAU, including the plants and animals that inhabit those waterways. I am pleased to share that one FAU researcher recently developed a device that will enhance our conservation efforts and save countless Florida manatees from boat-related injuries and even death.

Edmund Gerstein, Ph.D., director of marine mammal research in the Schmidt College of Science and his wife, Laura, have studied manatees for the past 20 years. One of their most compelling discoveries is that manatees have difficulty hearing and locating low frequency sounds, and that slowing down actually makes it harder for manatees to detect and avoid approaching boats. This may explain why the number of boat-related manatee fatalities has not improved, despite the increased presence of slow speed zones.

Their discovery inspired the Gersteins to develop the Manatee Alerting Device (MAD), which projects a narrow band of sound only audible to manatees in the direct path of an approaching vessel. During their tests in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Gersteins found that 95 percent of the manatees they encountered moved away from the MAD-equipped vessel. They are now working to make the device commercially available and offer similar devices to protect other marine mammals, such as whales.

I am very proud that this important conservation tool was developed by a member of the FAU family. I look forward to hearing more about the positive impact the Gersteins’ discovery will have on our manatee and other marine mammal populations.

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 Last Modified 7/21/17