First Round of Manatee Avoidance Technology Grants Awarded - 2001
Funds appropriated by the Florida legislature for the Florida Manatee Avoidance Technology initiative have been awarded through a request-for-proposals (RFP) grant process administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg.
The institute solicited proposals for development of technology designed to reduce the number of manatees hit by boats. A panel of experts chosen to review the proposals consisted of representatives from the environmental community, boaters, engineers, managers, and biologists. Proposal topics included alerting manatees to the presence of boats, alerting boaters to the presence of manatees, and hull or propulsions-sytem design modifications that would minimize injuries to the animals in the event of a collision. The proposals the panel selected for funding are designed to explore technology that has not previously been applied to the manatee-boat collision problem and include concepts related to voice recognition, sonar, and infrared technology.
While the decision has been made on what kinds of studies will be conducted, the work is far from over. Data must be collected and analyzed before the success of any of these forms of technology can be determined. The hope is to quickly evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed solutions, and if appropriate, assist in making these technologies available to the public at acceptable costs and risks. The goal is to reduce mortalities from watercraft, which account for approximately 25% of manatee deaths annually. With legislative support, this will be the first year of continuing funding for research into manatee avoidance technology.
Nine proposals were submitted and six were selected for funding. FMRI negotiated costs with the proposers in order to fund and test the greatest number of possible solutions. The following list displays the proposals selected for funding and the amounts awarded; the amounts allocated include funds from two fiscal years (FY) of legislative appropriations.
Bidders: University of South Florida
Amount Requested: $40,270.00
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $40,270.00
Passive acoustic detection of manatee sounds to alert boaters
Propose to design a system that detects the presence of manatees by passively detecting their vocalizations and incidental sounds and using this information to alert boaters through a warning system.
Bidders: Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Amount Requested: $154,675.00
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $70,000
Design for a Manatee Finder: sonar techniques to prevent manatee-vessel collisions
Propose to do comprehensive study to develop sonar technology to localize manatees and inform boaters of their presence called a Manatee Finder. Work will include determining whether manatees react to sonar signals.
Bidders: Nova Southeastern University
Amount Requested: $6,911.00
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $6,911.00
Boater manatee awareness system
Propose to design an infrared detection system to determine the number of manatees in a semi-enclosed area by detecting their exhalations in order to alert boaters to the number of animals in the area and eventually monitor of boater speed zone compliance.
Bidders: University of Florida
Amount Requested: $30,000
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $15,305.00
A system for warning boaters of the presence of manatees
Propose to analyze sounds produced by manatees to identify a unique signature for the species and demonstrate in the field that this unique sound signature can be isolated successfully from the high ambient background noises commonly present. This baseline research will allow the PIs to then apply for funds to modify existing naval submarine-detection technology.
Amount Requested: $103,400
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $77,500.00
Proof-of-concept for off the shelf technology to identify acoustic signature to detect presence of manatee(s)
Propose to use existing electro-acoustic technology to identify a manatee vocalization signature to be used in a software driven sensor array to identify manatees in congested waterways. This would later be used to develop warning devices for boaters.
Bidders: W. Randolph Warner
Amount Requested: $190,216.00
Funding allocated FY 01/02 and 02/03: $90,016.00
Manatee proximity locater
Propose to develop voice recognition software for manatee vocalizations called the Manatee Proximity Indicator. When a predetermined vocalization is received and recognized, a signal sequence is then activated which will alert boaters.
In addition to the projects funded through the RFP process, the Florida Marine Research Institute will be working with Florida Atlantic University's Dr. Ed Gerstein to test a device he has developed that may alert manatees to oncoming boats.