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Bee Ridge, FL, United States

Alvarez-Aleman A.,University of Habana | Beck C.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Powell J.A.,Sea to Shore Alliance
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2010

Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in Florida utilize intake and effluent canals of power plants as resting and thermoregulatory habitat. We report the use of a power plant canal in Cuba by a known Florida manatee, the first documented case of movement by a manatee between Florida and Cuba. In January, February, and April 2007, two manatees (mother and calf) were reported entering a power plant canal in north Havana, Cuba. The larger manatee had several distinctive scars which were photographed. Digital images were matched to a previously known Florida manatee (CR131) with a sighting history dating from December 1979 to July 2006. Exchanges of individuals between Florida and Cuba may have important genetic implications, particularly since there appears to be little genetic exchange between the Florida manatee subspecies with populations of the Antillean manatee subspecies (T. m. manatus) in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Martin J.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Edwards H.H.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Bled F.,Patuxent Wildlife Research Center | Bled F.,Colorado State University | And 12 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform created the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, we applied an innovative modeling approach to obtain upper estimates for occupancy and for number of manatees in areas potentially affected by the oil spill. Our data consisted of aerial survey counts in waters of the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi. Our method, which uses a Bayesian approach, allows for the propagation of uncertainty associated with estimates from empirical data and from the published literature. We illustrate that it is possible to derive estimates of occupancy rate and upper estimates of the number of manatees present at the time of sampling, even when no manatees were observed in our sampled plots during surveys. We estimated that fewer than 2.4% of potentially affected manatee habitat in our Florida study area may have been occupied by manatees. The upper estimate for the number of manatees present in potentially impacted areas (within our study area) was estimated with our model to be 74 (95%CI 46 to 107). This upper estimate for the number of manatees was conditioned on the upper 95%CI value of the occupancy rate. In other words, based on our estimates, it is highly probable that there were 107 or fewer manatees in our study area during the time of our surveys. Because our analyses apply to habitats considered likely manatee habitats, our inference is restricted to these sites and to the time frame of our surveys. Given that manatees may be hard to see during aerial surveys, it was important to account for imperfect detection. The approach that we described can be useful for determining the best allocation of resources for monitoring and conservation. © 2014 Martin et al.

Gibbs M.,Stetson University | Futral T.,Stetson University | Mallinger M.,Stetson University | Martin D.,Stetson University | Ross M.,Sea to Shore Alliance
Southeastern Naturalist | Year: 2010

During the winter, Trichechus manatus latirostris (Florida Manatee) depends on long periods of rest in comparatively warm thermal refuges to help conserve energy and maintain stable body temperatures. Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus (Vermiculated Suckermouth Sailfin Catfish) has been observed attached to, and grazing algae from, Florida Manatee in Volusia Blue Spring. We hypothesized that the disturbance caused by grazing armored catfish would significantly alter Florida Manatee behavior. Analyses of 6 hours of underwater video of Florida Manatee behavior, with and without attached armored catfish, revealed that during each observation period, Florida Manatees with attached catfish demonstrated significantly higher activity levels and numbers of active behaviors. Increased Florida Manatee activity caused by the armored catfish may compound the impact of other known threat effects.

Laist D.W.,Marine Mammal Commission | Taylor C.,Sea to Shore Alliance | Reynolds III J.E.,Mote Marine Laboratory
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

To survive cold winter periods most, if not all, Florida manatees rely on warm-water refuges in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula. Most refuges are either warm-water discharges from power plant and natural springs, or passive thermal basins that temporarily trap relatively warm water for a week or more. Strong fidelity to one or more refuges has created four relatively discrete Florida manatee subpopulations. Using statewide winter counts of manatees from 1999 to 2011, we provide the first attempt to quantify the proportion of animals using the three principal refuge types (power plants, springs, and passive thermal basins) statewide and for each subpopulation. Statewide across all years, 48.5% of all manatees were counted at power plant outfalls, 17.5% at natural springs, and 34.9 % at passive thermal basins or sites with no known warm-water features. Atlantic Coast and Southwest Florida subpopulations comprised 82.2% of all manatees counted (45.6% and 36.6%, respectively) with each subpopulation relying principally on power plants (66.6% and 47.4%, respectively). The upper St. Johns River and Northwest Florida subpopulations comprised 17.8% of all manatees counted with almost all animals relying entirely on springs (99.2% and 88.6% of those subpopulations, respectively). A record high count of 5,076 manatees in January 2010 revealed minimum sizes for the four subpopulations of: 230 manatees in the upper St. Johns River; 2,548 on the Atlantic Coast; 645 in Northwest Florida; and 1,774 in Southwest Florida. Based on a comparison of carcass recovery locations for 713 manatees killed by cold stress between 1999 and 2011 and the distribution of known refuges, it appears that springs offer manatees the best protection against cold stress. Long-term survival of Florida manatees will require improved efforts to enhance and protect manatee access to and use of warm-water springs as power plant outfalls are shut down.

News Article | January 24, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

There may be a way to save the endangered population of North Atlantic right whales, scientists said. North Atlantic right whales are baleen whales - the largest animals on Earth - that grow up to 50 feet and weigh up to 70 tons. Although they are enormous, right whales only feed on zooplankton, tiny species that wander about the ocean. Right whales inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, and scientists said the animals' distribution depends on the distribution of their prey. Unfortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there are only less than 500 individual right whales all over the world due to the effects of large-scale commercial fishing. In April last year, the NOAA advised recreational boaters to keep their distance from a school of right whales to ensure the animals' safety, or else, boaters will be subjected to a hefty amount of fines. North Atlantic right whales are protected under the United States Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Now, NOAA scientists developed a facial recognition software for whales that could perhaps be a key in saving one of the planet's most endangered species. How Facial Recognition May Save Right Whales Researchers at the NOAA first set up a competition to better identify and distinguish whales. The Right Whale Recognition contest, which was arranged by marine biologist Christin Khan, drew as many contestants as the current known population of right whales, with 470 contestants among 364 teams. Khan said she was inspired by Facebook's use of facial recognition to identify people in photos. The winning entry uses a facial recognition algorithm to distinguish whales 87 percent of the time. The software identifies whales by the patterns on their heads. It makes use of artificial intelligence to align, localize and finally identify right whales from aerial photographs. Developed by data science company deepsense.io, the facial recognition software could help save whales that have been caught in fishing nets. The algorithm allows scientists to report to disentanglement experts which whales have been trapped. At the same time, the algorithm would help marine biologists avoid performing mistaken biopsies on the same whale. Most importantly, the software will save scientists countless hours spent trawling through images of whales, freeing up time to carry out actual research. Previously, the only source of locating and distinguishing whales was by using aerial survey flights. Cutbacks in funding have ended the flights in several places. "Knowing how time-consuming post-flight processing can be, improved technologies to identify right whales quickly and accurately would be great progress," said research scientist Cynthia Taylor of the Sea to Shore Alliance. Piotr Niedzwiedz, co-founder of deepsense.io, said it was very exciting for their Machine Learning Team to participate and then win the NOAA competition. The solution they came up with helps solve a real-world problem and empowers marine biologists in their advocacies of protecting critically-endangered North Atlantic right whales, he said. "“The Right Whale Recognition challenge was a great opportunity to put our data scientists’ talents to the test and to demonstrate that deep-learning techniques ... can provide immense benefits in big data applications,” said Niedzwiedz. Meanwhile, Khan hopes to have the facial recognition software up and running by the next winter calving system.

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