Category Archives: Agency News

Agency News

Stranded Manatees from Hurricane Ian

While responding to stranded and in-need residents is obviously the first concern in the immediate aftermath of a major hurricane, like Ian, FWC wildlife biologist quickly became aware of stranded manatees in need of assistance.

Inundation from storm surge can strand manatees in ponds and other areas as surge water drains from coastal areas. FWC wildlife biologists received a report of a manatee entrapped in a retention pond system in Lee County, Fort Myers near Billy Creek after the storm had passed. The manatee was rescued in good condition by FWC’s marine mammal rescue team and was then transported a few miles away to the Orange River where it was released.

See an animal in need? You can help by reporting any sick, injured, orphaned, or entrapped manatees to FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. All activities conducted under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit #MA770191

See more photos from the rescue on Flickr.

Agency News

FWRI Headquarters to Host MarineQuest Open House in February

FWRI’s annual open house event, MarineQuest, will be held on February 16-18th, 2023, a departure from the usual October date. MarineQuest has not held an in-person event since 2019, due to storms and the COVID pandemic, so we are excited to be able to see everyone in person once again. MarineQuest features two separate events; School Daze, which is usually held on the first day, and is exclusively for students from local schools; and then the main public event, open to all, which is usually held on a Saturday. The St. Petersburg Science Festival plans to continue holding their event concurrently with ours. FWRI typically hosts 1200-1400 students for School Daze and roughly 10,000 people on Saturday at our headquarters here in St. Petersburg.

Additional information will be provided soon.

Agency News

Supplemental Feeding of Manatees in Indian River Lagoon Ends

The Joint Unified Command (UC) is scaling down operations to a spring and summer response mode. However, a core group of staff will remain active for future planning and contingency response. This Atlantic Coast Manatee Unusual Mortality Event (UME) is an ongoing event, and all agencies and partners remain committed to our collective response.

The supplemental feeding trial at the Temporary Field Response Station ended on March 31. With warmer water temperatures most of the manatees have naturally dispersed from their warm water refuges. The number of manatees visiting the site continues to decrease since feeding stopped last week; for example, on Saturday, April 2, staff observed 40 manatees, but by Tuesday, April 6, they only saw six animals. Staff will continue to monitor manatees at the site to watch for distressed animals. 

Even though the UC winter enhanced support operations are scaling down, agency staff, volunteers, and our many partners within the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) will continue to work tirelessly to rescue and care for manatees needing help.

With limited space at critical care facilities this winter, the MRP partners, the FWC, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked to strategically move animals among the partner facilities to keep valuable space available and two new facilities joined the partnership. As of this week, there are 87 manatees in rehabilitation (19 of these have been identified as UME-related rescues) at 14 critical care or rehabilitation/holding facilities: 71 in Florida, 2 in Georgia, 12 in Ohio, 1 in Texas and 1 in Puerto Rico. Of this total, 14 animals are considered non-releasable, and the remainder should be able to be returned to the wild following rehabilitation. 

The UC encourages people to continue reporting sick, injured or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 so trained experts can respond and assess the situation. People should never push a stranded marine mammal back into the water. 

The FWC and partners will continue to work on habitat related projects to help support manatees and other wildlife. Learn more.

The UC thanks the many partners, including the MRP, who assisted with this season’s UME Response. The UC is also grateful to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the 1,387 individuals from around the world who donated $168,160 for the UME response including the purchase of Florida grown produce used in the manatee temporary feeding trial. 

Agency News

The Who, What and Why’s of the FWRI Morale Team

By Amanda Mattair and Chelsea Myles-McBurney

Who is the FWRI Morale Team? The FWRI Morale Team is a team comprised of members from a wide range of backgrounds from the Florida Keys to Pensacola who came together under one common interest: to make morale great once more. The Morale Team was created for staff at FWRI with the goal to foster connections among staff and provide optimism and inspiration to protect, promote, and encourage employee happiness for staff within the workplace. So, what do we do? Our team hosts a variety of contest throughout the year including Halloween costume & pumpkin carving contests, photography contests, step challenges, watercooler chats with leadership and weekly facts/trivia/jokes. For staff at headquarters in Saint Petersburg, the team organizes food trucks and bake sales to provide food services right outside the office doors. And lastly, the Morale Team hosted an event recognizing staff during public service recognition week by organizing a week of giveaways. Through chats near a metaphorical watercooler, contests, and trivia, the FWRI Morale Team strives to make employees feel supported and celebrated. To learn more about who and what we do at the Morale team, visit the Morale Teams SharePoint FWRI Morale Team – FWRI Morale Team (sharepoint.com). Interested in boosting morale and becoming a member of the FWRI Morale Team? Contact Laura Tennant laura.tennant@myfwc.com.

Agency News

Facilities Continues to Make FWRI Headquarters More Friendly to Florida Wildlife

Two years ago, before the pandemic, Facilities embarked on a project to make the campus more friendly to Florida wildlife. Last year the team installed a product to help prevent birds striking our windows, and now they want to tell you about their new landscaping initiative. Two years ago Facilities met with Wilcox Nursey, who specializes in native plants and they identified the non-native plants we needed to remove and gave Facilities ideas on native ones to replace them. Facilities also replaced the red hardwood bark mulch with pine straw for a more natural and native look. They are currently working with landscapers and arborists who specialize in native landscaping for tree pruning and non-chemical weed control, and their latest improvement has been the addition of signage identifying the native plants. The signage mimics those used by Florida State Parks and Facilities now feels the grounds here at FWRI better represent the environment we all work to protect.

Agency News

2021 Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force Holds Meeting at FWRI

The Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force held their most recent meeting at FWRI on July 14th, and was attended by leaders of local municipalities, partners like Mote Marine, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and others. FWC Director Eric Sutton helped lead the meeting, which took on renewed urgency following the severe red tide blooms around the Tampa Bay region. The HAB Task Force was established in 1999 and reactivated in 2019, with top priority focused on issues associated with red tide; the group plays an important role in determining strategies to research, monitor, control and mitigate red tide and other harmful algal blooms in Florida waters. The HAB Task Force has adopted broad, long-term focal areas within which it will evaluate existing approaches or knowledge; pinpoint gaps in our efforts or understanding; and build a prioritized portfolio of strategies and actions to fill those gaps by assessing their benefits and feasibility.

Agency News

FWRI Headquarters Installs Bird-Friendly Window Covering

Recently, the Facilities Department at the St. Petersburg headquarters made the decision to reduce or eliminate unfortunate bird mortalities caused by birds accidentally colliding with some of our large glass windows present on the building. This project began in late 2019 with a meeting in the RMI library where a half dozen staff met to discuss what we could do to prevent bird strikes on our windows.  A few options including nets and curtains were considered. By January of 2020, Facilities staff had determined a vinyl perforated window film was our best option and staff began contacting local contractors requesting quotes. FWRI chose to work with Michael McKenny at SpeedPro St Petersburg and install a 3M product called Feather Friendly.  The “Harmony” style was chosen due to it providing the optimum prevention for bird collisions. The Facilities team is working to ultimately cover all windows on the FWRI building with this product to minimize bird strikes on the campus. FWRI hopes to set a good example for coexisting with our fish and wildlife in the built environment through mitigation measures like these.

FWRI Facilities installs new bird-strike prevention film on windows of St. Petersburg headquarters.

Agency News

Family Fishing Days at the Suncoast

By Ashley Shuttleworth and Sarah West

A fun-filled family fishing day was offered to local FWC employees and their families in honor of the Florida Youth Conservation Center’s Network’s 10th birthday celebration. Despite near freezing temperatures on that January 16th morning 26 people from 6 families showed up from the Lakeland Regional Office and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg including folks from fishes to finance! Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) has hosted two birthday bashes, one for the public and one for FWC employees. Yes, these events were limited on numbers because of COVID, but not limited on fun.

The Rynerson’s enjoy a chilly day fishing at SYCC.

Families enjoyed learning how to tie common fishing knots, how to properly measure fish, how to cast with an open reel, and what tackle to use. Several families were able to use these skills to catch and safely release fish. As Betty Hauss (photo below) learned to fish for the first time, she also learned how to recycle tangled fishing line. The day ended on a high note as Ethan Rynerson danced off the Suncoast’s fishing pier and said, “thank you for teaching me how to fish!” We are looking forward to hosting more events like this one, to get families on the water together and kids outdoors. What better way to social distance than with a fishing rod in your hand?

Agency News

Chronic Wasting Disease

The always-fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD) that affects deer has, thankfully, not reached Florida. The FWC has actively worked to prevent CWD’s spread into Florida for many years. In 2005, the FWC prohibited importing or possessing carcasses or certain carcass parts from all members of the deer family originating in states where CWD has been detected. In addition, importing live deer, elk, moose, caribou and other members of the deer family into Florida from any state was prohibited in 2013. We also have a robust CWD monitoring program, testing over 14,000 hunter-killed, road-killed, and sick or diseased deer since 2002. Hunters have been and continue to be an important part of that effort, and we thank you for your commitment to protecting Florida’s deer population. You can support the CWD testing efforts by donating heads from deer harvested in Florida. You may remove and keep the skull cap and antlers. To donate, call the CWD hotline at 866-293-9282. In addition, if you harvest a sick or extremely skinny deer, avoid handling it and call the CWD hotline at 866-293-9282.

Agency News

MarineQuest 2020 Moves to Online Format

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leadership has made the decision to move FWRI’s annual MarineQuest open-house to an online format. This decision will allow the event to proceed safely, with the added benefit of allowing Floridians and science-lovers from across the country (or from abroad!) to join in from the comfort of their own homes.

School Daze, an event exclusively for students and their teachers, will take place online Thursday, October 15th, with classes joining remotely for Q&A’s with scientists, activities, explorations of Florida flora and fauna, and more.

The MarineQuest online event will take place Saturday, October 17th. If you have any questions about MarineQuest 2020, please contact Jessica Pernell (Jessica.pernell@myfwc.com) or FWRI Communications (FWRI_Outreach@myfwc.com).