Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration: Manuel Merello Penalver

Manuel is currently working on several habitat projects, including research on seagrass restoration that is focusing on developing restoration tools for repairing seagrass beds that have been damaged by vessel groundings and propeller scars.

Manuel Merello PenalverDegrees
Marine Botany, University of South Florida, 1995
International College of Seville, Spain. Robotics Instituto Politecnico de Nuevas Profesiones. El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, 1985

(1996 - Present) FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute/ St. Petersburg, FL
Marine Research Associate

(1993 - 1996) University of South Florida / Tampa, FL
Laboratory Technician III and Field Research Assistant

(1994 - 1995) University of South Florida / Tampa, FL
Assistant to the Biology Department

(1980 - 1992) Survallas, SA. Espanola de Publicidad Exterior / Spain
Environmental Outreach Agent


What are you working on now?
I am working on several projects: Fish Habitat Assessment Program (FHAP), Halophila johnsonnii southern distribution survey, Development of Restoration Tools for Repairing Vessel Injuries in Tropical Seagrass Beds, and Tampa Bay seagrass interagency transects monitoring program.

How is this information beneficial?
The information that we gather from these programs is beneficial for managers, state, federal, or local agencies to protect and evaluate the status on seagrass health. Our most recent research on seagrass restoration focuses in developing restoration tools for repairing vessel injuries; groundings and propeller scars. The data obtained from this research will be beneficial on many levels but the most important is that it would give managers new scientifically-proven tools and protocols to restore seagrass injuries.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I think that my biggest accomplishment has been to be able to work as a public servant doing exactly what I love to do. Being able to develop new techniques for seagrass restoration is something that I am really passionate about, especially because the opportunity was given to me to work very closely with some of best world known seagrass scientist. Another accomplishment that I am especially proud of is having the opportunity to develop a tight relationship with South American countries, especially Puerto Rico where I can spend time teaching about seagrass ecology, assessment and restoration.

What do you like most about your career?
I love research, it is just fascinating to me to be able to design, collect data, and obtain answers to your question. It is also very rewarding to know you are doing something good for future generations.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?
Yes, I have always been interested in the outdoors and protecting our environment. Since I was a young child I always knew that I would be working in the ocean or something related to the ocean.

What do you like least about your career?
There are a few down sides to my career. Being away from my family for weeks at a time takes a toll on my wife and kids, but they know that it is for a good cause. One thing that is also very challenging is seagrass restorations being done using no scientifically-proven methods. We give our best to develop new techniques and these techniques should be used in Florida for restoration until new and better tools are available.

What are some of your biggest challenges?
One of my biggest challenges is bureaucracy - sometimes I am consumed by it and it is hard not to lose focus of our FWC mission.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
This career is very rewarding and exciting but one must make sure that this is what he/she really wants to do. This career is not always easy--most of the time it is hard and demanding. It is not always sunny, warm, safe, and pretty in the ocean. Most likely it will not make you wealthy, but the fulfillment that you get in return is far greater than you can possibly imagine.

FWC Facts:
Bottlenose dolphins use echolocation to find their prey.

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