Our 2023 Impact

Research and Conservation

  • Supported the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) commitment to restoring important manatee habitat throughout Florida by identifying areas of concern and proposing habitat restoration projects.
  • Strengthened partnerships with agencies, universities, and nonprofits along the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) on the east coast of Florida to support restoration and conservation of critical manatee habitat.
  • Worked on multiple collaborative efforts to help restore seagrass growth in the IRL, which suffered a full collapse, resulting in an unusual manatee mortality event due to a lack of a sustainable food source. Some of these projects include collaboration with the Florida Oceanographic Society to create seagrass mats; attached rhizomes to be planted later in the IRL; work with Brevard Zoo Restore Our Shores to build metal exclusion devices to protect seagrass nurseries.

Brevard Zoo’s Restore Our Shores conservation team hosted our mana-team of 20 volunteers and staff at the Zoo’s oyster shell site in Cocoa, FL. Both staff and volunteers came together to build the exclusion devices, which will serve to protect the seagrass once it is planted in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).

  • Continued our decades-long genealogy research at Blue Spring State Park.
  • Submitted hundreds of photos from our researchers and webcams to the statewide Manatee Individual Photo-Identification (MIPS) database.
  • SMC's online manatee sighting form received over 300 sightings in 2023. This important data is shared with government authorities and partners to support manatee rescue and conservation efforts.
  • Celebrated the successful first winter season of the Manatee MATES Program in collaboration with the University of Florida IFAS Extension, FL Sea Grant, and Get Up and Go Weeki Wachee. This volunteer program was created to reduce manatee harassment in the lower Weeki Wachee River. The program witnessed a significant reduction in manatee harassment during winter 2022–2023.
  • Continued the development of our Guardian Guides program to certify eco-tour operators are using best practices for viewing manatees in the wild. Certified several new operators under the program, including all franchises of Get Up and Go Kayaking.
  • Worked as a principal partner in the coalition to restore the Great Florida Riverway, which includes the Ocklawaha River, Silver River, and over 20 springs impounded by the Rodman Dam.
  • Funded several grants to research partners, including a research grant to Florida International University for manatee nutrition and a research grant to USGS for manatee genetics.
  • Provided funding and advised on the use of drones to identify sick and injured manatees throughout Florida, with a priority focus on the Indian River Lagoon.

Education and Public Awareness

  • Redesigned our website layout, improving the user experience for over 350,000 visitors. More fun to come!
  • Continued efforts to increase public awareness about manatees through above- and underwater webcams at Blue Spring State Park and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in partnership with Explore.org. Launched new webcams at Silver Springs State Park and introduced a new 180° interactive viewing experience for the public.
  • Produced numerous educational videos on the topics of safe boating, responsible recreation, and the Adopt-A-Manatee® program, as well as several Q&A videos answering member-submitted questions.
  • Distributed free public awareness materials to shoreline property owners, boaters, parks, marinas, tour operators, and nature centers.
  • Created public service advertisements and press releases for print and online media, radio stations, TV stations, and billboards. Provided footage, photos, and interviews to media outlets to increase manatee awareness.
  • Assisted the Ocala National Forest in implementing plans to protect manatees from harassment by educating tourists and visitors on manatee manners through signage and other educational materials.
  • Worked with Volusia County's Manatee Protection Program to provide manatee-safe boating materials to marinas in the Mosquito Lagoon.
  • Collaborated with the City of Satellite Beach to install new educational signage at DeSoto Canal, a primary warm-water site in the Indian River Lagoon.
  • Participated in a variety of manatee-related events and cleanups, including participation in the statewide beach cleanup.
  • Provided manatee presentations and conducted live and virtual events to school classrooms and other groups, reaching thousands of students and individuals worldwide.

Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Return of Manatees to Natural Habitat

  • Worked to ensure continued funding for Florida's Critical Care Program so that sick, injured, and orphaned manatees could be rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to their natural habitat.
  • Assisted with and documented manatee rescues and returns to the wild and participated in other work of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, including the continuation of our Fiscal Sponsorship for the program.
  • Assisted with the largest number of manatees returned to the wild in one day in history at Blue Spring State Park in February 2023.
  • Continued to co-lead the Manatee Observer Volunteer Program at Blue Spring State Park to prevent manatee harassment during the summer.
  • Provided thousands of dollars worth of material goods, equipment, and supplies to acute and long-term manatee care facilities to ensure every manatee in need received the help they deserve.

International Rescue and Research

  • Collaborated with Wildtracks, Belize's only manatee rehabilitation facility. Sent funds, supplies, and essential equipment, much of it donated by SMC supporters through our Wish List, to assist their rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
  • Provided funding to the African Marine Mammal Organization as a matching grant for the purchase of a conservation truck.
  • Provided funding to the International Foundation for Nature & Sustainability in Mexico for replacement milk vital to the care of orphaned manatee Pompeyo.

Legal and Advocacy

  • Worked in close cooperation with federal, state, and local governments to ensure that Manatee Protection Plans and rules were followed and improved.
  • Tracked legislation and rule development and engaged with lawmakers to ensure that new regulations do not further harm manatees and their habitat.
  • Continued reviews of and comments on a variety of marina development projects in important manatee habitat. Held applicants and agencies accountable under manatee and habitat protection laws.
  • Garnered 194 pledges for the "Fertilizer-Free for Manatees" campaign via our website, and dozens more through event sign-ups.

Membership and Fundraising

  • In recognition of their outstanding contributions, a scholarship fund, named the Lesley Argiri and Brian McDonald Scholarship Fund, is currently in development to support individuals pursuing a doctorate in environmental protection.
  • Worked with dozens of caring individuals, students, and small businesses to host peer-to-peer fundraisers through their various creative endeavors.
  • Forged a new partnership with Friends of Blue Spring State Park through the Adopt-A-Manatee program and maintained partnerships with Friends of Manatee Lagoon and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
  • Launched overhaul of manatee catalog site, enhancing the process for supporters while prioritizing optimization and security.
  • Successfully moved into a newly acquired building, made possible by an unexpected and generous legacy donor. This event marks a pivotal moment in the organization's commitment to advancing manatee conservation efforts, providing a strengthened foundation for our initiatives.

Awards and Recognition

  • 2023 Wes Skiles Water Stewardship Award presented by the Rotary Club of Downtown Gainesville (RCDG) in the non-profit category
  • 2019 University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Biological Sciences Alumni Achievement Award to Patrick Rose
  • 2017 WKMG Getting Results Award, presented to Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist
  • 2015 Awesome Application Awards Special Category Prize for the Manatee Webcams at Blue Spring State Park, with Axis Video
  • 2015 Best of Category in Calendars, 2015 Florida Print Awards for Save the Manatee Club’s 2015 calendar
  • 2011 Regional Director’s Conservation Awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region to Patrick Rose and Helen Spivey for the Three Sisters Land Acquisition Project
  • 2006 and 2007 Certificate of Appreciation, Wyland Foundation
  • 2003 Outstanding Contribution to Sirenian Conservation, International Sirenian Workshop, 15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals
  • 1999 American Planning Association’s Public Group Award
  • 1997 Environmental Public Service Award, Keep Florida Beautiful, Inc.
  • 1997 Certificate of Environmental Achievement, Renew America Foundation
  • 1996 Environmental Activism Award, Discover Diving Magazine
  • 1996 Exceptional Contributions Award, Florida State Parks
  • 1996 A resolution commending the Club and renewing the state’s commitment to the protection of manatees was passed unanimously in the Florida House of Representatives. (Introduced by Representative Helen Spivey)
  • 1995 National Conservation Achievement Award to Patrick Rose, Special Achievement, National Wildlife Federation
  • 1995 Outstanding Achievement Award, Renewable Natural Resources Foundation
  • 1994 “A+” Rating for SMC’s Adopt-A-Manatee® Program, The Chicago Tribune
  • 1994 Award of Recognition to Patrick Rose, First International Manatee and Dugong Research Conference, Gainesville, Florida
  • 1992 Wildlife Conservation Award, Renew America Foundation
  • 1992 Take Pride in Florida Award
  • 1992 Outstanding Contribution Award, Take Pride in America Program
  • 1991 Special Tribute Award, Animal Protection Institute
  • 1991 Take Pride in Florida Award
  • 1988 Walt Disney World Community Service Award