Hartley has been studying the Blue Spring manatees since 1979, and he
knows almost every one by sight. During the winter, he canoes into the
Run everyday to identify, record and count all of the manatees in the
"Run". You can usually hear him greeting them by name, almost
like a teacher taking attendance!
It All Started With a Book From His Grandmother
We asked Ranger Wayne how he became interested in studying manatees, and
its an amazing story.
interested in manatee research indirectly. It goes back a long way.
About 1953, my Grandmother gave me a book on North American wildlife,
and I would just flip through it and find "oh there's an interesting
looking animal", and I'd read about it. And I came to a picture
of a manatee and I thought "this can't be right, animals like this
can't exist in my country, this is South America, this is Africa, not
the United States." And so eventually, I came here to Florida,
I became a Park Ranger, and discovered that they were establishing a
park over here--Blue Spring State Park--where manatees come for the
winter. And I found that to be kind of amazing and interesting. Eventually,
I got a chance and I transferred over here.
I was introduced to the researchers from the University of Minnesota
and the Federal researchers who were coming down here from Gainesville.
The young man from Minnesota, John Bengston, was working on his doctorate,
and they had a tremendous reputation for animal tracking. And so they
were down here working out how to track animals, manatees, and were
actually doing the tracking, which of course now the state and federal
people have all taken over all of that, but that got it all started.
So I come in, the researchers are looking for help on various things
like vegetation sampling. So I started going around with those guys,
John took me up in the plane to track Wonder Woman. She had a working
radio, one of the last at that time, and we went up and we did the vegetation
sampling. And I started going out in the morning either on my days off
or I would come in early when I had late duty.
I would come in, and I was gradually learning the animals, and one of
the researchers, Chris Bruegger, wanted to go home for Christmas, and
asked if I could do the research or the roll call over the Christmas
holiday and they said sure.
There were only 18 animals at that time, there were 26 in that year,
but only 18 at the time I was starting. So now there are 153 that we
saw last year, and we have numbers issued out, Blue Spring numbers,
into the 300's. It's been 21 years.
He Conduct the Daily Roll Call?
daily roll call is shared with other state and federal manatee researchers,
and makes a unique and important contribution.
Ranger Wayne explained why his roll call data is so important:
part of life history, who stays here, and where do they stay in the
run. You want to pick up on animals that suddenly come in and go. We've
seen animals for 30 seconds and that's it, that's the only time they
were here the entire year. And these are very distinct animals, that
researchers have a record of in other places and so you get these travel,
these movement records, very cheaply with a phone, a camera, a picture.
I'm also looking at recognizing the calfs, so we can keep a record of
calf survival. That's important to figuring out how well the animals
are doing state wide. Researchers can incorporate these things into
their formulas that they use to predict what's really happening with
I'm also recording every day any animals with new boat strikes. I don't
know if there is any other record to resemble it. And if you could sit
down with a computer and really work out how many days the animals were
in, and how many animals, and how many boat strikes, you'd get a much
better idea of what is happening out there in the river.
Wayne for letting students participate in your in your important research!
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