When you're looking to make a difference in Manatee County, the Bradenton Kiwanis Foundation is a great place to start. For over 90 years, Entre Nous members have been devoted to volunteering and fundraising to support academics, non-profit organizations, and those in need of emergency aid. The Mote Marine Laboratory is also an excellent resource for those looking to help out. They are home to Hugh & Buffett, the only manatees in the world trained to take part in behavioral and physiological research.
Studies conducted on these two manatees have helped us better understand the basic principles of manatee thermoregulation. Mote staff have also been involved in annual aerial studies of manatees across the state since the 1990s. Cold stress syndrome (CSS) is a major threat to Florida manatees, as it can kill them when water temperatures drop below 69°F. To protect them, researchers have identified ways to identify individual manatees by their scars, mutilations, trematodes, and fins. These are all acquired from incidents such as collisions with boats, cold stress injuries, and entanglements in fishing gear. At Mote Marine Laboratory, they are also using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for marine mammal research.
This is still relatively new technology, so government organizations that oversee protected species are taking a cautious approach to allowing its use. During this time, the MRP has developed a unique tool for scraping the skin of manatees which takes a small sample of skin and produces minimal reactions. Dana Wetzel, director of the Forensic Environmental Laboratory (ELF) at Mote Marine Laboratory has also been involved in projects that examine the levels and long-term sublethal effects of stress factors on important biological functions of manatees and other marine mammals and fish around the world. These surveys also highlight places where human activities and manatee habitat use could be in conflict, providing information for making proactive management decisions. Initiatives have been focused on Sulphur Springs, Ulele Spring, Lithia Spring, and Warm Mineral Spring. The latter's selective restoration could provide a long-term hot water source for hundreds of manatees in Southwest Florida.
Counts have exceeded 2500 manatees in a single day at several plant locations, and near Cape Canaveral Next Generation Energy Center and nearby waters in Brevard County counts have approached 2000 manatees on several occasions.