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Women in Science: FWRI’s Anna Panike

Marine Mammal Biologist Anna Panike always wanted to work with animals. Early in her career, Anna worked at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center (NMMC) in California. While there, she helped with seal and sea lion rescue and rehabilitation. After her time at the NMMC, Anna joined FWRI where she now gets to work with her favorite animals, manatees!

A large part of Anna’s job involves examining the health of individual animals and the species overall. This includes performing necropsies, animal autopsies, to see how a manatee died. The information gained from the necropsies is used to better manage and protect the species. Anna also responds to reports of injured or distressed manatees to see if intervention or rescue is needed. If the manatee needs critical attention, it is brought to a rehab facility where it can receive the care it needs.

Additionally, Anna is part of FWC’s manatee genetic identification sampling team. Identification of individual, free-ranging manatees through genetic markers offers a way to enhance FWC’s understanding of survival rates. Genetic analysis can help identify manatees that do not have unique markings as well as determine the sex of the individual. Information obtained though genetic monitoring complements population studies.

After spending nine years working with manatees at FWRI, Anna is still surprised by the species’ incredible resiliency. The ability of many individuals to recover from red tide exposure, boating accidents, and other injuries is truly amazing. Anna’s work with manatees contributes to the long-term conservation efforts of the FWC. Unfortunately, 2019 was a record year for manatee boating deaths, underscoring the need to continue sharing conservation information with the public.

Although much of her job is centered around manatees, Anna also works with dolphins and whales. She helps collect and report information about their health using a tool called GulfMAP. The goal of GulfMAP is to build a large scale, up-to-date database that illustrates the health of the Gulf of Mexico’s cetaceans.

Researchers like Anna are responsible for the conservation of the manatee in Florida, as well as other marine mammal species. To support their efforts, donate here.

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