CMA Research Institute

Protecting Marine Life in Florida
and Around the World

INTRODUCING CMA RESEARCH INSTITUTE

The world-renowned research organization, Sea to Shore Alliance is now a part of CMA! Sea to Shore has made critical advancements in their work with manatees, right whales and sea turtles. We’ve created a new division called Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, where this important work will continue and expand.

“This merger will broaden our conservation and research scope, which will result in advancements toward the protection of species and habitats. Our team is pleased to embark on this new venture with CMA and begin realizing research goals and conservation successes through the newly developed Research Institute.” 
Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, Executive Director of CMA Research Institute

RESEARCH MISSION

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute works to protect and conserve our world’s fragile coastal ecosystems and the endangered species that call them home. We focus on the conservation of flagship species, such as manatees, sea turtles, and right whales, to ensure greater protection for the species themselves and for the sensitive habitats these animals rely on around the world.

CMA Research Institute biologists and ecologists combine passion for their work with technical expertise to conduct rigorous scientific research, share their knowledge with managers to ensure adequate protection for endangered species, educate the public and conserve our coastal environments for the benefit of both people and animals.

Marine Species We Study

MANATEES

Protecting manatees and their habitats.

Manatee conservation specialists are providing the science and education to conserve the manatee and its habitat. Manatees have been a source of deep fascination for humans through the ages.

RIGHT WHALES

Reducing risks to right whales.

Scientific data contributed to the decision to lower ship speeds in areas along the South Carolina and Georgia coastline. The result? Zero right whale mortality from ship strike during the five-year trial period.

DOLPHINS

Identifying Local Dolphin Populations.

CMA field biologists have identified and cataloged more than 80 dolphins using pictures taken of their dorsal fins. This data is helping monitor and protect local wild dolphin populations.

SEA TURTLES

Ensuring Sea Turtle Survival.

Researchers created a breakthrough method of measuring, mapping, and recording beach lighting levels along Florida’s coastlines to better protect nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings.

Global Research Efforts
For Manatee Conservation

Manatees in Belize

We have been able to build awareness of the need to help the West Indian manatee survive in Belize.

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Manatees in Cuba

How a team of researchers and Cuban scientists are building the foundation to conserve manatees in Cuba

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Global Field Research Team

Anmari Alvarez Aleman - Associate Research Scientist - Cuba - Manatee Conservation

Anmari Alvarez Aleman

Associate Research Scientist

Location: Cuba


Since receiving her Bachelor’s degree in 2006, Anmari Alvarez has worked at the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana. She led a project toward the research and conservation of manatees in Cuba. She serves as the only Cuban biologist completely dedicated to the study of this marine mammal on the island. Her goal is to contribute to the recovery of this endangered manatee population through a conservation strategy implemented through increased scientific knowledge, institutional capacity, and community awareness.

In 2010, Anmari completed her master’s degree in Integrated Management of Coastal Zones with an emphasis on manatee conservation at Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), Cuba. Currently, she is working on PhD. research focused on the ecology and population genetics of Trichechus manatus in Cuba. This study will provide recommendations to the Cuban government and Cuba’s National System of Protected Areas to better manage and conserve endangered manatees.

Anmari has authored and co-authored six scientific publications, contributed to two book chapters, and developed a survey protocol to study manatees in marine protected areas in Cuba, for which she won an award from the University of Havana in 2013. She has participated in 17 workshops and international conferences, including the 19th and 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, held in Tampa, USA, and Dunedin, New Zealand respectively.

She is associated with numerous scientific and conservation societies such as the Cuban Zoology Scientific Society, the Cuban Society for Protection of Nature (Pro Nature), and the Meso-American Sirenia Specialist Regional Group. She was recently nominated as the scientific coordinator of the Manatee Monitoring Program for the Cuban National System of Protected Areas.

Nicole Bartlett - Research Assistant - USA - Manatee Research

Nicole Bartlett

Research Assistant

Location: USA


Nicole Bartlett is a Research Assistant for CMA Research Institute, conducting photo identification, behavioral observations, and monitoring of tagged animals from South Florida to South Carolina. Nicole first started working with Sea to Shore in 2013 carrying out onsite survey and photo identification. Prior to working for CMA Research Institute, you were likely to find Nicole canoeing various Florida waterways with Outward Bound, or hiking in Texas. Originally from Arkansas, Nicole saw her first manatee while traveling through Mosquito Lagoon. Nicole spends her free time growing hot peppers, riding motorcycles, and catering to the whims of the two cats and dog who insist she spoil them relentlessly.

Paul Davis - Conservation Biologist - USA - Healthy Habitats & Oceans

Paul Davis

Conservation Biologist

Location: USA


Paul’s career started 40 years ago when he volunteered to monitor sea turtles and coordinate the first beach cleanups at his local surf break. This passion for the ocean and coastal ecosystems led to a fulfilling career managing the County’s coastal resources Paul retired in 2013 as the Director of the Environmental Restoration Division and worked at the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) for 25 years. His area of expertise includes nearly 40 years in coastal management and imperiled species conservation.

He conducted sea turtle monitoring for 33 years and drafted the Palm Beach County Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance in 1988. One of the first in the State, the ordinance established lighting standards and regulated existing and new lighting along the beaches to reduce sea turtle impacts. He was also responsible for developing and implementing the PBC Manatee Protection Plan. Both required close coordination with property owners, developers and municipal, county, state, and federal agencies to produce effective conservation measures.

He and his staff were responsible for habitat restoration projects as well as ecosystem and species management planning documents and initiatives. He was also responsible for the monitoring and management of reefs, beaches, dunes, mangroves, seagrass and estuarine communities of Palm Beach County. Since retiring he has been volunteering for a number of environmental organizations including the Audubon Society, International Dark Sky Association, and Gale Academy of Environmental Science and Technology at Forest Hill High School.

After retirement, his career came full circle back to where it started- spending time on the beach fighting the marine debris problem. For the past year, Paul has worked with CMA Research Institute managing the Healthy Habitats and Ocean marine debris environmental education program. The program brings a mobile classroom (a converted bus) to schools and special events. The program also coordinates regular beach cleanups and collaborates with other volunteer groups to reduce the impacts of marine debris. He still surfs.

Jorge A. Angulo-Valdés - Associate Research Scientist - Cuba - Manatee Conservation

Jorge A. Angulo-Valdés

Associate Research Scientist

Location: Cuba


Dr. Angulo-Valdés is a full time professor at the University of Havana and Head of the Marine Conservation Group at the Center for Marine Research (CIM). He was former Director of CIM (2009-2014) and is currently the Director of the International Ocean Institute Operational Center in Cuba. Dr. Angulo-Valdés graduated from the University of Havana in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, then obtained a Master’s Degree in Marine Management and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Dalhousie University, Canada. Jorge has published over 35 papers and has supervised over 30 students. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Havana. His research interests include management effectiveness of marine protected areas, ecology of reef fish, ecology of manatees and sharks, biodiversity protection, and ecological economics.

Melody Fischer - Research Biologist - USA - Manatee Research

Melody Fischer

Research Biologist

Location: USA


After completing her undergraduate studies in her home state of Kentucky, Melody relocated to Florida in 2003 to pursue a career in biology, specifically marine mammals, beginning with earning her Masters degrees. Her interest in manatees began OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith her thesis work, Boater Compliance with Manatee Speed Zones on the Intracoastal Waterway near Port Everglades, which found the majority of boaters to be non-compliant with speed zones. Her research was presented at the 2008 Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium Conference (SEAMAMMS) in Fort Lauderdale, FL. After finishing this research and being introduced to the manatee world, that interest shaped the positions she accepted. Working aboard a dredge on the Miami River, she was employed by Environmental Protection Observation to spot manatees and advise the dredging crew on protective measures. Next she was involved in manatee and sea turtle rehabilitation at Miami Seaquarium. She joined Wildlife Trust as a part-time manatee tracker in June 2007, working in the Miami area, and relocated to Sanford, FL, to continue that work in February 2008. Melody is proud to have been a part of Sea to Shore Alliance, now CMA Research Institute, since coming aboard as one of its first employees in November 2008. In addition to tracking animals and doing behavioral observation, she is involved with releases, rescues, and health assessments, as well as educational and press events. She is particularly excited to be serving as manager of field activities for the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. At home, Melody and her husband Jason are enthusiastic supporters of animal rescue of all types. They live with a variety of rescued animals, currently cats and a potbellied pig, and are working toward a goal of founding their own animal rescue facility at their farm in Brooksville, Florida.

Dr. James "Buddy" Powell - Executive Director - USA - Research

Dr. James “Buddy” Powell

Executive Director of CMA Research Institute

Location: USA

Pew Fellow in Marine Science

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For more than 40 years, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell has worked to conserve manatees and other endangered species around the world and his efforts have resulted in coastal protected areas in Florida, West Africa, Central America and Cuba. His approach integrates science and education to unlock solutions to conservation issues.

A native Floridian, in the 1970s, Buddy worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a biologist and manatee specialist. In 1986, he moved to West Africa where he studied manatees and forest elephants for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and was pivotal in establishing several coastal protected areas. He moved to Belize in the 1990s to manage WCS’s Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station. Upon his return to Florida, Buddy administered the state’s research program on marine mammals and sea turtles for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2001, he became a Vice President at Wildlife Trust where he oversaw the Aquatic and National Divisions.
In 2008, Dr. Powell co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance. The organization was created to improve the health and productivity of coastal environments for the endangered species and human livelihoods that depend on them through research, education and conservation. Buddy joined CMA as Executive Director of CMA Research Institute when Sea to Shore Alliance merged with Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Dr. Powell received his BSc. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Florida, his Masters in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, and his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge in England. He was the recipient of the prestigious Pew Award in Marine Conservation in 2000, has been featured on “Champions of the Wild” and National Geographic’s “Wild Chronicles” documentaries, and has been honored with multiple awards and certificates. Dr. Powell has authored two books, numerous scientific publications and popular articles.

Monica Ross - Research Scientist - USA - Manatee Research

Monica Ross

Research Scientist

Location: USA


Monica has over twenty years of research experience studying manatee behavior and habitat use. She has worked for state, non-profit or private research organizations and has assisted organizations in developing manatee research projects. Her knowledge and skills have helped provide valuable input to state and federal agencies when developing or improving manatee habitat protection measures.

As a native Floridian always in or near the water, Monica grew up fascinated with how marine mammals interacted and learned from each other. Fresh out of college, Monica focused on marine mammal cognitive and adaptive abilities. She later worked on projects focusing on oyster larvae development, Florida game-fish stock enhancement, fish tag shedding/retention and fish population monitoring programs.

Monica found her passion when she first worked on a wild Florida manatee tagging project in the early 1990s. She found her niche in trying to understand how manatees learn and make choices in their day-to-day lives. She has focused her research on manatee behavior related to habitat selection. Currently research efforts spotlight documenting manatee use of natural springs along the St Johns River which do not have manatee protection plans. She is also working at industrial sites to determine the degree of manatee site attraction during winter. Monica assists with photo-identification and is also working with partners to determine manatee fringe habitat use within Alabama and Georgia. She has expanded her research to also include habitat health and enhancement under different management strategies. Healthy spring systems are vital for manatee survival and are directly associated with habitat selection. Monica has more than seven years of professional animal training experience with dolphins, birds, and terrestrial animals, along with fifteen additional years of personal experience training dogs for competitive obedience, agility or herding competitions. Enjoying animal behavior is not just a job for her but a way of life.

Melanie White - Research Biologist - USA - Right Whale Conservation

Melanie White

Research Biologist

Location: USA


Melanie White is the project manager for the North Atlantic right whale conservation program based in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Between the months of December and March, survey flights occur off the coast of Georgia and northeast Florida in the only known calving ground for this critically endangered species. Melanie has been flying right whale surveys since December 2005 and has been based in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. She has worked as an observer and Team Leader helping to monitor the location, individual identification and real-time ship mitigation for right whales.

Melanie grew up in upstate New York surrounded by lakes and forests, so her love for the ocean only surfaced thanks to a family trip to Acadia National Park, Maine. The variety of marine creatures found in countless tide pools captivated her and triggered the start of her fascination to learn about the world below the waterline of the vast ocean.

Melanie has spent time on both coasts of the United States studying large whales. She has monitored the gray whale population in British Columbia, Canada and now spends her time along the eastern seaboard monitoring other whale species. During the summer Melanie can be found on the whale watching boat, M/V Granite State, in Rye, New Hampshire where she works as a naturalist and research associate with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Melanie then heads south in the winter where she works for CMA Research Institute during the annual right whale calving season.

When she is not in the field searching for whales, Melanie tends to gravitate to the environment surrounding her. She enjoys hiking, aquatic birding, searching for treasures on the beach and nature photography.

Jamal Galvez - Associate Research Biologist - Belize - Manatee Conservation

Jamal Galvez

Associate Research Biologist

Location: Belize


A native of Belize, Jamal Galvez has been passionate about protecting wildlife since his childhood. From the age of 12, he knew he wanted to work with animals – specifically manatees.

In 1998, Jamal met Executive Director Dr. James “Buddy” Powell and USGS scientist Robert Bonde while participating in his first manatee health assessment. Working with these two renowned scientists influenced Jamal enormously; he was immediately hooked and soon found himself taking every opportunity to work with manatees. While most of his high school classmates were spending their weekends and holidays relaxing, Jamal was working with scientists, monitoring and feeding two manatees in their final stages of rehabilitation. He eventually helped with the tracking of those two manatees after their release.

After finishing high school, Jamal volunteered to work with Nicole Auil Gomez, an associate with Sea to Shore Alliance, now CMA Research Institute, and was eventually given a full-time position as coordinator of the manatee project., continuing his dream of protecting wildlife. Jamal’s responsibilities include addressing and responding to any manatee related incidents in the entire country of Belize; capturing, tagging, and tracking manatees; collecting data; release and monitoring of rehabilitated manatees in the wild; and educational outreach and awareness.

Jamal recently was awarded the prestigious Ocean Hero Award by Oceana Belize for his dedicated, passionate and heroic work with the endangered manatee. “These animals are in trouble and need our help – I have dedicated my life to helping this species,” he said upon accepting the award.

Nicole Auil Gomez - Associate Research Scientist - Belize - Manatee Conservation

Nicole Auil Gomez

Associate Research Scientist

Location: Belize


Nicole Auil Gomez is a native Belizean who has spent almost 20 years working on coastal conservation matters, to improve management and protection of critical habitats and species. For the last two years, Nicole has held the position of Executive Director of Southern Environmental Association (SEA), an NGO based in Placencia Village. SEA’s focus is marine protected area management for the sustainable use by stakeholders for the benefit of nine fishing and tourism villages.

Nicole’s specialty is the conservation management of the Antillean manatee and is co-chair of the IUCN Manatee Specialist Group for the Meso-American Region. Using the Belize success model that she directly championed from 1996 to 2009, she has worked with partners in the Gulf of Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Niger, helping to start manatee conservation programs. This work was done while at the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute and Wildlife Trust.

Nicole believes that the true measure of her conservation impact will be seen if she and her husband successfully pass this ethic on to their three kids.

JOIN US ON AN EXPEDITION

CMA Research Institute expeditions are a one-of-a-kind eco-experience. An expedition provides a life-changing, unique introduction to our groundbreaking work with manatees in the United States and Cuba.

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All manatee work was conducted under USFWS Research Permit #MA37808A. Right whale research conducted and photographs collected under NOAA research permit #15488. Dolphin dorsal ID research conducted and photographs collected under the NMFS scientific research permit #19749.

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