Monitoring Manatee Habitat

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Florida manatees range along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Texas, little is known about manatee use areas and habits west of the Suwannee River.  Understanding manatee distribution and resource use is necessary for managing northern Gulf of Mexico coastal habitats. Knowledge of shelter and forage resources for manatees and other species, such as fish and sea turtles is important.  GPS telemetry records from radio-tagged manatees linked to a camera-based sampling system were used to detect and characterize seagrass beds. This methodology has proven to be sensitive to differences in seagrass abundance and species richness.  Manatee distribution and habitat are being assessed by multiple agencies and partners using aerial surveys, GPS, and radio tracking studies to determine local and regional movement and habitat use patterns. Salinity and temperature loggers are deployed on tagged individuals to understand variations in timing and spatial extent of freshwater and warm-water resources.