November is Manatee Awareness Month and Save the Manatee Club (Club) is rolling out new education programs to raise awareness and to foster a new generation of manatee conservationists.
The Club’s new Livestream Education Program, currently under development, uses Internet technologies to bring information about manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida to school classes worldwide. Hundreds of manatees congregate during the winter months at this beautiful natural fresh-water spring that flows to the St. Johns River. Manatees are susceptible to cold stress, so these sub-tropical marine mammals take refuge at warm-water springs.
The Livestream Education Program features the Club’s Manatee Specialist, Wayne Hartley. Before joining Save the Manatee Club in 2010, Wayne was a Park Service Specialist with the Florida Park Service. Since 1980, he has served as a principal investigator for manatee research conducted at the park under the auspices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project, and now for Save the Manatee Club.
“I compile life history information on the Blue Spring manatee population through re-identification using photography and scar sketches,” says Wayne. His manatee research has resulted in a very extensive body of knowledge on the manatees’ life history as well as how they use warm-water habitat. It is one of the longest running databases in existence on manatees. Wayne’s knowledge of these manatees has also been the basis of Save the Manatee Club’s popular Adopt-A-Manatee® program. “Through the adoption program, scientific data have been very instrumental in helping the public understand the manatees’ needs, the threats to the manatees’ long-term survival, and what actions members of the public can take to help manatees,” he added.
Students from all over the globe will be able to meet Wayne and the Blue Spring manatees via the Livestream Education Program, observe his research “in the field” firsthand, and get to ask Wayne questions.
“We expect to make this program available in December or in early 2016 as part of our year-long activities to mark the 35th anniversary of Save the Manatee Club,” stated Patrick Rose, the Club’s Executive Director. “We are also distributing three brand new television public service announcements (PSAs) featuring Wayne. The PSAs cover three major threats to manatees: prolonged cold weather that can result in cold stress, which kills many manatees each year; collisions with boats, which injure and kill manatees; and discarded fishing line and hooks, which can entangle manatees and other wildlife.”
Save the Manatee Club is also offering free springs courses for students and communities. “With the help of the Protect Florida Springs grant program, we have developed a new Blue Spring Adventurers Program for 3rd to 5th graders to teach kids how to be good springs stewards,” said Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation for the Club. “So far, we have scheduled two programs, one in November, and one next spring, to take students who attend school within the springshed to the park for a field trip to see manatees in their natural habitat and to learn, firsthand, all about manatees and the Park’s natural features, and how they can help protect them.”
The other program, Springs Conservation in the Classroom and Beyond, is a free online curriculum comprised of seven course modules geared toward high school students and the general public. The course is an introduction to aquifers, springs, and springsheds, and discusses their importance. It’s streaming online as a series of YouTube videos or available to download in PowerPoint format athttp://www.savethemanatee.org/ed_springs_conservation.html.
The Club is also continuing to improve upon its existing webcams at the park. During the winter months, viewers from all over the world can visit in real-time with the Blue Spring manatees via the Club’s webcams at ManaTV.org, and watch archived footage during the non-winter months. Wayne Hartley writes an entertaining and insightful daily blog about the manatees he observes, also available at ManaTV.org.
For information on Save the Manatee Club’s educational programs and resources as well as highlights of the Club’s activities and accomplishments, or to Adopt-A-Manatee®, go tosavethemanatee.org.