Staff Spotlight

This issue Nadia Gordon with Wildlife Research/Marine Mammals was kind enough to spend some time answering our questions for Staff Spotlight. Thank you, Nadia.

FWRI Section/Location:
Wildlife Research/Marine Mammals located at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Research Associate – Jacksonville Northeast Field Lab lead, Dec. 2010 to current

Supervisor of Mammals – Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Animal Curator – World Wildlife Kingdom

BS – Northern Illinois University

What are you working on now?
Day to day work can be dynamic since we receive calls from the public on marine mammals that may need rescue or strand, along with the salvage of marine mammal carcasses. In collaboration with a Jacksonville University D.V.M., our lab (Allison Burns and Kyanna Tamborini) is working to publish a paper on a dolphin stranding case. I’ve also been maintaining our section’s manatee rescue database and assisting in the rescue report editing process. I participate on monthly calls regarding the ongoing large whale Unusual Mortality Events. This afternoon I’ll be working on our monthly vehicle and vessel inspection checklists; we are always maintaining equipment in preparation for marine mammal rescues and necropsies.  

How is this information beneficial?
FWC contributes significantly to the evaluation of threats facing marine mammals and provides key information on health and mortality factors to resource managers and partner agencies. FWC participates within the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership, a multiagency effort to rescue, release, and track rehabilitated manatees.  The manatee rescue database is complementary to mortality information, both provide insights into how and where manatees may be at greater risk, including from vessel-collisions, water control structures, or from natural causes such as cold-stress. The information may also be requested by the public or outside agencies, such as a recent request on how many manatees have been rescued due to ingesting or becoming entangled in plastics and debris.  

What is your typical work day like?
No day is typical, especially when you field calls from the public. In northeast Florida our responsibilities also change seasonally. Manatees migrate south in the winter, but that is when we welcome the North Atlantic right whales and assist with research and participate in yearly large whale disentanglement training.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Not my accomplishment, but I previously worked for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and was heavily involved in their team assisting FWC’s Marine Mammal Section. (I didn’t realize I was building my resume for a career with FWC.) Once I became an FWC employee, the Zoo asked if I would assist on their committee to build a manatee critical care rehabilitation facility, which opened in 2017. It was special to be part of a long-term goal coming to fruition.

What are some of your biggest challenges?
I’d say working during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge, but one I feel our Institute is managing well. The animal related challenges are typically feel-good stories in the end. I recall our team working with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue over 6 hours to free a live manatee from a storm drain or working with engineers and the City of Daytona to free a manatee cow and her calf trapped behind a walled off retention pond after hurricane Dorian. Both rescues were live streamed, which although is a great way to communicate with the public, can be stressful.

What do you like most about your career?
I like the people I work with and the common interests we share. I appreciate the variety of species we are involved with from manatees and dolphins to beaked whales and North Atlantic right whales, even the occasional wayward seal. I also enjoy collaborating with other organizations. I believe the relationships we build with people make a difference.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?
Yes, animals were always an interest of mine and started before I was a toddler trying to pet a bumblebee. (That didn’t go well.)

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?
I’d find a way to get paid to travel to exotic places surrounded by nature.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
Volunteering is a great way to learn about career opportunities. It not only opens your eyes to possibilities, but also allows an individual to see all aspects of a field, for better or worse. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy time with friends, running with a local run group at the beach, and in June of this year I adopted a shelter dog who’s learning to paddleboard. When I get the opportunity, I love to travel and explore new places (above and below water!).