Project title: Assessing Antillean manatee trophic ecology, habitat and survival status in Northern Brazil
Summary: Understanding the relationship between environmental change and species persistence is a major issue of interest in ecology. Mangrove, coral and seagrass ecosystems in Northern Brazil support an immense amount of biodiversity and act as carbon sinks through sequestration. Due to climate change and degradation from anthropogenic activities, these habitats are in decline both regionally and globally. This puts the organisms they support at risk of extinction. The Antillean manatee, which is listed on the Brazil IUCN Red List as ‘Endangered’, use these ecosystems as pathways for feeding, mating and nursing their young. Currently, very little is known about manatee habitat use and the quality of resources along the Brazilian coast, especially seagrass habitats. My project aims to expand the knowledge base of manatee ecology to promote their conservation and develop management strategies that aid in preventing habitat degradation. In the face of increasing anthropogenic pressures on marine and estuarine habitats, findings from this project will directly inform more effective strategies for conservation of manatees. In a broader context, my PhD will review a variety of novel techniques used in ecology to assess species persistence under changing environmental conditions. These techniques can be applied to other regions of the world where habitat assessments for endangered species are urgently required.