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Manatees’ mysteries uncovered thanks to foundation grant

Tallahassee, FL (January 11 , 2021) – Despite their popularity, Florida manatees’ movements remain a mystery, especially in the Ocklawaha and Silver River. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) will be seeking answers thanks to two grants from the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida totaling $39,970.

The threatened Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is extremely sensitive to cold water and depends on natural springs, with their year-round constant temperatures, for survival during the winter. We have little understanding, however, of the manatees’ preferred habitats and movements between springs and the rivers.

To close the knowledge gap, CMARI will be monitoring Silver River for manatees biweekly for a year. The study will document manatee behavior, habitat use and associated interactions with humans. A second project will radio tag three manatees previously observed in the area with satellite transmitters. Researchers will collect data on their fine-scale movements to disclose unknown feeding and resting locations, use of the Ocklawaha River’s lock systems and as before, interactions with people.  Enhanced satellite technology will allow CMARI scientists to collect more information on manatee movement than previously possible.

“We know manatees can access the Ocklawaha and Silver River through the Buckman lock, but we really have no idea where they are going or what they are doing once within the system. We hope to get a better understanding of their overall habitat use and needs, specifically as it relates to the Silver River, a warm water refuge for their survival throughout a winter” said senior research scientist Monica Ross.

Funds for the grant came from the Foundation’s Protect Florida Springs license plate, which contains the image of a scuba diver. Twenty-five dollars from each purchased plate supports conservation of Florida’s unique springs.

“Protecting manatees and the springs they rely on is a high priority for the Foundation,” said President and CEO Andrew Walker. “We are proud to partner with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute on such important studies.”

About Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working marine rescue center dedicated to inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. CMA is home to rescued dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more. Winter the dolphin’s story of survival, after an injury that caused her to lose her tail, has impacted millions of people around the world. Major motion picture Dolphin Tale (2011) features Winter’s story and its sequel Dolphin Tale 2 (2014) features the incredible story of Hope, a young resident dolphin of CMA. Through Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, CMA conducts important global research focused on protecting manatees, right whales and sea turtles. The mission and potential to change people’s lives differentiates Clearwater Marine Aquarium from any other aquarium in the world.

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