This week we’re taking a look below the surface, just in time for Earth Day. On Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories we welcome Rachel Shanker, the Conservation Liaison & Educator at Manatee Lagoon. Manatee Lagoon is a free Palm Beach County educational attraction with a dedicated area to view manatees up close. In this episode, Rachel educates us about the eco-discovery center, why the Manatees come to hang out there, how we all can protect them, and other sustainable practices we need to keep in mind for the betterment of our planet.
Manatee Lagoon is an FPL Eco-Discovery Center that features free experiences for visitors to learn all about Manatees and what makes them important to our environment. They are located near Florida Power & Light Company’s adjacent Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center. Such proximity means that in the colder months, the warm outflow from the energy center attracts Manatees who naturally can’t survive in cold water and seek out warmth. In fact, about half of the population of Manatees in Florida now rely on power plant outflow during the winter for warmth. This statistic raises questions – What did the Manatees do before the power plants? Where do most manatees in the world live? That’s where Rachel and Manatee Lagoon’s expertise and education becomes important.
Education for All
Rachel Shanker grew up in Florida surrounded by aquatic wildlife, so naturally she pursued marine biology. While attending Florida Atlantic University, she joined a program that partnered with Manatee Lagoon, starting her connection with the center early on in her career. She started her time there running day-to-day educational programs, and even after earning a masters in biology she left the research behind to continue to work in the educational side of her field. Her internship turned into a full time position with Manatee Lagoon, where today she runs their programming on educating the public on Manatees and sustainable habits. Her job doesn’t stop there. Rachel also works “on call” for Florida Fish and Wildlife when they need extra hands for Manatee rescues.
Finding Sustainable Habits
Though Manatees have recently been downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2017, Rachel reminds us that that only serves as a reminder that our efforts are working and we must keep them up to continue protecting the species. There are many ways to keep Manatees safe, such as obeying boating speed limits, wearing polarized sunglasses to see under the water, and even posting a lookout on your boat to help with visibility. Even when not in the water, we should all be remembering to reduce, reuse, recycle, and dispose of our trash responsibly. If you’ve ever wondered if the sustainable steps you take matter as “just one person,” Rachel reminds us that our collective efforts really do add up.
What else can we expect in this episode?
- How the energy center produces the warm water outflow.
- What a Manatee rescue looks like for Rachel, and what to do if you ever see an injured manatee.
- More information on how to be careful with your consumption, specifically plastic and unsustainable seafood.
- Rachel’s actionable health tips to decrease stress and increase creativity
Where to find Manatee Lagoon: