Meet the Manatee Experts

Meet Mr. Pat Purcell:

Hair: Gray

Eyes: Blue

Married: Yes

Kids: I have four grown children and 4 grandchildren.

Pets: I have 6 fish that I caught myself with a net.

Favorite TV show: Red Green Show

Favorite movie: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Favorite book: Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson and Windward Road by Archie Carr

Sports: Boating, sailing, snorkeling

Hobbies: I play guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and penny whistle in a bluegrass/folk band called The Sunshine Wagoneers.

Education: University of South Florida, BS Zoology

Certified SCUBA diver

Job Title: Director, Marine Science Station

Employer: Citrus County Board of Education

How long on job: 31 years

What my job is: I take students out every day on the research boat. I drive the boat and I teach the students about the plants and animals that we find. Also, I am an underwater filmmaker and I have two videos about manatees for sale. One is called "The Mysterious Manatee" and the other is "The Trouble with Manatees".

What I like best about my job: Being outdoors.

What don't like most about my job: Dealing with the bureaucrats!

Advice for kids who would like a job like mine: Marine biology is a great avocation for everyone, because if we don't know about our natural world, we won't protect it. But as a vocation, there is not much money in it.

Goal: I am in the process of building a 42' boat. I am going to use it to take people interested in marine biology out on 3-day ecology cruises.

What I have learned about manatees: I have learned that manatees have a relatively fast learning period. They learn at about the same rate as pigs. They learn much faster than a horse or dog or cat. But they are not as quick to learn as monkeys.

Manatees learn on their own. They are curious and inquisitive. They don't recognize danger by sight, but they do recognize danger by sound, especially after they have been hit by a boat once.

A manatee calf learns from its mother. It will learn migration routes, feeding places, and vocalization. I can teach a person to talk to a manatee by making squeaks and mimicking the sounds that a manatee makes. I can call a manatee to me by making a manatee sound. Over 40 specific manatee calls have been identified. A cow will call to her calf and a calf will call back to its mother. Also, groups of male manatees have certain calls that they make. I can predict the activity of the manatee just by hearing its call.

Manatees migrates as a family unit. They will often travel together as a family. They can identify each other as family members by chemo-reception. Why does a manatee sometime put its face in your face when your are snorkeling with it? Because it is trying to see if you are a family member. When manatees rub each others faces together, they are exchanging saliva to see if they are part of the same family.

It is OK to snorkel with manatees as long as you are trained to do it properly. You need to wait for the manatee to come to you. I like to take visitors out on weekends and holidays to study manatees and to learn the proper way to interact with these wonderful creatures.

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