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USGS Sirenia Project Receives Manatee Hero Award

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Jim Reid, Howard Kochman, Cathy Beck, Brad Stith, Cathy Langtimm, Amy Teague, Gaia Meigs-Friend, and Bob Bonde
Above: Sirenia Project staff, from left to right: Jim Reid, Howard Kochman, Cathy Beck, Brad Stith, Cathy Langtimm, Amy Teague, Gaia Meigs-Friend, and Bob Bonde. Not pictured: Susan Butler, Dan Slone. Photograph courtesy of USGS Sirenia Project. [larger version]

Manatee moving along the bottom, using its flippers.
Above: Manatee moving along the bottom, using its flippers. Photograph courtesy of USGS Sirenia Project. [larger version]

A capture at Port of the Islands.
Above: A capture at Port of the Islands. Boat has been pulled stern-first into shore for processing (measurements, tagging, photographs, and so on). Brad Stith is at the stern in blue jacket and purple cap, Susan Butler is at the manatee's tail in USGS T-shirt, and Jim Reid is at the bow in T-shirt and cap. [larger version]

Jim Reid and Susan Butler fastening radio tag and belt to a scarred manatee
Above: Jim Reid and Susan Butler fastening radio tag and belt to a scarred manatee in Everglades National Park. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Sirenia Project was presented with the Save the Manatee Club's Manatee Hero Award in December 2006. The award was given in appreciation of the project's "contribution to the protection of manatees." As the club celebrated its 25th anniversary, it took the opportunity to "honor a select group of very special people and organizations who have contributed to the protection of manatees."

Established in 1981 by former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, the Save the Manatee Club was created so that the public could participate in manatee-conservation efforts to save endangered manatees from extinction. Federally listed as an endangered species in 1967 (under a law preceding the Endangered Species Act of 1973), West Indian manatees are also protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Protection of the manatee at the State level began in 1893 when the Florida Legislature passed a law to protect these marine mammals. 

"It has been my great pleasure to have worked for more than 30 years with the Sirenia staff," said Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. "I find it hard to imagine a more committed, imaginative, or qualified group of scientists and associates who have contributed so much both to our base of knowledge and to the welfare of endangered manatees. They are true Manatee Heroes."

This long-term relationship has been beneficial for both organizations.

"The club has been supportive of our research since their formation in 1981," said Cathy Beck, a Sirenia Project researcher with the USGS Florida Integrated Science Center. "They have assisted us on various research efforts and have forwarded relevant manatee observations and information from their members. The club staff has communicated with us over the years on numerous manatee-research issues, and their support of the efforts to document and better understand the challenges to manatee recovery is commendable."

According to Beck, "The many challenges facing manatees in their immediate and long-term future necessitates continued research. Limits to habitat availability and quality, and research on manatee population growth and distribution through analysis and modeling of genetic and photo-identification data, will likely be at the forefront of research efforts."

USGS Sirenia Project data are used in the implementation and assessment of Florida manatee-population-recovery plans. The USGS uses satellite telemetry and global-positioning-system (GPS) technology, a digital catalog of individual manatees identified by their unique scars, genetic analysis, and microhistology to study:

  • Movement patterns and identification of significant manatee habitats
  • Reproduction and survival
  • Population status and trends
  • Population structure
  • Diets of manatees in high-use habitats

The USGS works in partnership with other Federal and State agencies, and private organizations such as the Save the Manatee Club, to study manatee life history, behavior, ecology, and population biology.

Save the Manatee Club is a membership-based, national nonprofit organization. Funds from the Adopt-A-Manatee program go toward public awareness and education projects, manatee research, rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and advocacy and legal action in order to ensure better protection for manatees and their habitat.

These large, gentle, herbivorous, and slow-moving mammals are entirely aquatic. The West Indian manatee has two subspecies: the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus). West Indian manatees have a geographic range that includes the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean Islands, eastern Mexico, Central America, and the north coast and rivers of South America. Manatees cannot survive for extended periods in water colder than about 17°C (63°F), and prefer temperatures warmer than 22°C (72°F), which limits their habitat range.

Manatees and their closest relative, the dugong, are in the Order Sirenia; their ancestors evolved from four-footed land mammals more than 60 million years ago. The major threats to manatee survival are human activities: boat-related injuries and deaths, habitat loss or degradation, and, in some countries, hunting.

For more information about the Save the Manatee Club, visit URL http://www.savethemanatee.org/. For more information about the USGS Sirenia Project, visit URL http://cars.er.usgs.gov/Manatees/manatees.html.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Biologist Coauthors Book on the Florida Manatee
May 2006
Using Genetic Modeling to Assess the Health and Status of Manatee Populations
September 2005
Manatee Population Rising in Some Regions, Likely Stalled or Declining in Others
September 2004

Related Web Sites
Sirenia Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Save the Manatee Club
nonprofit organization

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Deadly Tsunami Hits Solomon Islands

Tsunami-Forecasting System Tested by Recent Earthquakes

Sub-Sea-Floor Methane in the Bering Sea

Outreach USGS Donates Equipment to Local Nonprofit Theater

Meetings Getting to Know ET (Evapotranspiration)

International Workshop on High-Seas Biogeography

Awards USGS Researcher Receives Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers

USGS Sirenia Project Receives Manatee Hero Award


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