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NCBS Intern Report: Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Manatee Monitoring

Written by 2019 Intern Connor Milton, with Joyce Kleen from the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

My name is Connor Milton and this past winter I interned at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. My research included monitoring interactions between humans and manatees in the springs managed by the refuge.

This internship allowed me to gain experience in fieldwork involving data collection and analysis. My internship also gave me the opportunity to acquire knowledge in wildlife and biological studies, two subjects that I will be molding my career around in the future.

Springs Management

Our research at the refuge was focused on seeing whether a protocol change was needed with regards to the management of Three Sisters Springs. To determine this we went out and collected data on human/manatee interactions in the area to see if Three Sisters Springs should remain closed or open for public use during certain times.

A day in the life of an Intern…

A typical day at work for my internship included getting up before sunrise and starting out on the 20-minute kayak trip required to reach the data collection site. Sometimes the kayaking trip was the hardest part because I would get stuck in the rain! Once I arrived at the springs I would begin recording interactions taking place between humans and manatees in the area. Interactions included a human touching, poking, or even riding a manatee! I was able to see so many amazing things out on the water and really came to appreciate the beauty and importance of the Florida Manatee.

Acknowledgments

Our research came up as inconclusive due to interference from external variables. This experience was truly wonderful and I learned a great deal from observing both humans and manatees interacting together. I am especially grateful for Joyce Kleen, the head wildlife biologist at the refuge and leader of our internship for making this possible. This was a once in a lifetime experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

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