The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network (DISL/MSN) is celebrating its 10th year of manatee research and outreach in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This fall has been particularly eventful for our research program.
In September, DISL/MSN launched its 5th year of manatee health assessments and tagging efforts in Alabama waters. In collaboration with SeaWorld Orlando, Sea to Shore Alliance, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 11 manatees have been captured and tagged in Alabama since 2009, including a single, male manatee tagged in Dog River this year. Data collected during capture events are important to assessing the overall health of the manatee population in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Data from satellite tags yields information on manatee distribution and movement patterns as animals migrate between habitats in the northern Gulf and warm water refuge sites in peninsular Florida.
The manatee tagged by MSN this fall left Mobile Bay during the extreme tidal excursion following hurricane Irma. This massive low water event also resulted in the stranding of two manatees in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Unfortunately, this year’s health assessments were cut short by the pending impact of Hurricane Irma, but we hope to collect more data next year.
Also this fall, DISL/MSN manager Elizabeth Hieb, PhD student Kayla DaCosta, Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN) Stranding Coordinator Noel Wingers, and Stranding Assistant Matt Hodanbosi traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia for the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s biennial conference and concurrent 8th International Sirenian Symposium.
DISL/MSN research presented at the conference included results from an ongoing study identifying potential warm water refuge sites for manatees in Alabama waters and DaCosta’s work using trace elements to reconstruct life-time migration patterns for manatees across the Gulf of Mexico.
As fall turns to winter, water temperatures in Alabama and nearby waters soon will become too cold for most manatees. During this colder time of year, it is increasingly important to immediately report manatee sightings to DISL/MSN, toll-free at 1-866-493-5803 or online at manatee.disl.org.
DISL/MSN relies on members of our local community to report manatee sightings along the Gulf coast. To learn more, visit manatee.disl.org and like us on Facebook as Mobile Manatees Sighting Network.