FAU Student and FPL Manatee Master Shares Love of Marine Life

Boca Raton, FL – Despite the quarantine and the ramifications of COVID-19, FAU biology major and senior Kylea Perrin, 22, an animal lover and aspiring marine biologist, knows something about keeping busy.

As a ‘manatee master’ at Florida Power & Light’s Manatee Lagoon (which has been closed due to the virus) Perrin and her colleagues went on-line to offer educational resources with videos, virtual field trips and even a virtual summer camp.

 Manatee Lagoon is an FPL Eco-Discovery Center located in Riviera Beach that enables year-round learning about manatees and their environment.  Manatees migrate as the winter months arrive and congregate in the warm-water discharges of FPL’s Next Generation Clean Energy Center.  Manatee season begins Nov. 15.

“Kylea is an integral part of Manatee Lagoon,” says Brittany DiLoreto, the communication specialist at Manatee Lagoon.  “Her enthusiasm is contagious,” DiLoreto says.  “She does a great job engaging with her audience and took the reins to develop the summer programming worksheets and videos for our educational programs.” 

“Her passion shines through,” she says.  “It’s great to have someone like Kylea share her enthusiasm and passion for the manatees with the public.”

Manatee Masters are paid, part-time employees and act as the go-to experts for all visitors to the Lagoon.  

“Manatees are really cool animals,” says Perrin, noting that they are mammals, as we are.   She’s impressed with their functional adaptation to move their lungs independently.  Due to their large air exchange, manatees may stay underwater for as long as 20 minutes before coming up for another breath.

The Lagoon partners with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to collect data on the manatees and have a manatee ID program where they track where the manatees migrate, what marks or scarring they may have, their habitat, diving behavior and response to human activities

She became involved with the manatee master’s program after working in the gift shop at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Jupiter and already has a job lined up at the Gumbo Limbo Center Nature Center in Boca Raton after graduation this spring with her bachelor’s degree in biology from FAU.  

During her year and a half as a manatee master, Perrin says she learned how important educating the public is.  “I never thought how rewarding it could be,” she says.

Over the summer Perrin and her colleagues prepared online learning programs in combination with other local organizations such as the Museum of Discovery and Science, Zoo Miami, Lyon Country Safari, the Palm Beach Zoo and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Educators from each organization gave educational talks on a variety of subjects focused on wildlife and the environment.

Their virtual summer camp itinerary included learning about creepy crawlers and sea turtles, learning how chimpanzees communicate with each other and learning how one of Manatee Masters uses drones to study manatees.

Perrin says that thanks to Google Classroom technology, they were able to reach people from all over the country and world and provided them all an opportunity to interact with each other.

“I’d like people to know we are not alone on this planet,” says Perrin.  “I hope people will pay attention to the other forms of life that coexist with us.”

“We all have value and it’s so incredible to see the manatees in their natural habitat,” she says.  “They are complex beings with complex behaviors, etc.  All wildlife is special in their own way.”

She recalls a baby manatee less than a year old named Tostone that was rescued and sent for rehabilitation.  Perrin says he’s doing well and will soon be released back into the ocean.

“I hope he will remember us and return,” she says.

Besides her work with the Manatee Lagoon, Perrin volunteers her time with the American Shark Conservancy, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

“I do as much as I can,” says the Boca Raton resident who loves to dive and snorkel.  “The experience I got at the Manatee Lagoon prepared me for my future work as a marine biologist.”

What would she like people to know about working with marine animals and other wildlife?

“I’d like it if people are interested, that they reach out and get connected,” Perrin says.  “Visit places like the Manatee Lagoon and keep their curiosity alive.  Come visit, check out our website and social media, log on to our live webcam; stay involved and keep in touch with us.”

For more information visitmanateelagoon.com

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