Florida researcher helping endangered manatees

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Florida Atlantic University Professor Edmund Gerstein has researched and developed an acoustic alerting device that he hopes will prove useful in saving manatee’s lives, the school said in a recent press release.

Gerstein is trying to reduce the number of incidents in which a boat strikes a manatee by creating a device that would be placed on boats to alert manatees of approaching vessels.

“Manatees can’t hear well or at all at low frequencies, and sound is hard to hear for them near the water’s surface,” said Gerstein. “Because of this, when boats slow down in a manatee protection zone, they are at greater risk of getting hit and injured.”

Gerstein’s research demonstrates that speed is not the central issue. Rather, it is a lack of sensory awareness that makes manatees vulnerable to boat collisions.

“Back in 1989, manatees were thought to be dumb and slow, or boats were too fast,” said Gerstein. “But now we know they have a fight or flight response and can travel up to 15 miles per hour for up to two minutes.”

Gerstein’s research documents the manatees overall hearing abilities, revealing an underlying sensory reason why manatees get hit repeatedly by boats. He is receiving funding from the United States Department of Defense, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Inland Navigation District to help his research. Currently, he is waiting on a permit to test the alert device.

“I know when we test the device, there will be a positive result,” said Gerstein. “An acoustic alerting device could give animals the opportunity to save themselves. The longer we wait, the worse it is for the manatees.”

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