Dr. James “Buddy” Powell
QUALIFICATION Pew Fellow in Marine Science
For more than 40 years, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell has worked to conserve manatees and other endangered species around the world through science and education. With an integrated approach to unlock solutions for conservation issues, his efforts have resulted in coastal protected areas in Florida, West Africa, Central America and Cuba.
As native Floridian in the 1970s, Buddy’s work began with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a biologist and manatee specialist. In 1986, he moved to West Africa where he studied manatees and forest elephants for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). After a cultural adjustment and gaining experience in managing people and changing human behavior, he was pivotal in establishing several coastal protected areas. He moved to Belize in the 1990s to manage WCS’s Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station. Upon his return to Florida, Buddy administered the state’s research program on marine mammals and sea turtles for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2001, he became a Vice President at Wildlife Trust where he oversaw the Aquatic and National Divisions.
In 2008, Dr. Powell co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance. The organization was created to improve the health and productivity of coastal environments for the endangered species and human livelihoods that depend on them through research, education and conservation. Buddy joined CMA as VP of Research & Conservation when Sea to Shore Alliance merged with Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Dr. Powell received his BSc. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Florida, his Masters in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, and his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge in England. He was the recipient of the prestigious Pew Award in Marine Conservation in 2000, has been featured on “Champions of the Wild” and National Geographic’s “Wild Chronicles” documentaries, and has been honored with multiple awards and certificates. Dr. Powell has authored two books, numerous scientific publications and popular articles.
Paul’s career started 40 years ago when he volunteered to monitor sea turtles and coordinate the first beach cleanups at his local surf break. This passion for the ocean and coastal ecosystems led to a fulfilling career managing the County’s coastal resources. Paul worked at the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) for 25 years, and eventually retired in 2013 as the Director of the Environmental Restoration Division. His area of expertise includes nearly 40 years in coastal management and imperiled species conservation.
He was involved in sea turtle conservation for 33 years and manatee conservation for 25 years including developing and implementing the PBC Manatee Protection Plan. These programs required close coordination with property owners, developers and municipal, county, state, and federal agencies to produce effective conservation measures. He and his staff were responsible for habitat restoration projects as well as ecosystem and species management initiatives related to reefs, beaches, dunes, mangroves, seagrass and estuarine communities of Palm Beach County. Since retiring he has been volunteering for a number of environmental organizations.
After retirement, his career came full circle back to where it started – spending time on the beach fighting the marine debris problem. For the past five years, Paul has managed the Healthy Habitats and Ocean marine debris environmental education program. The program brings a mobile classroom to schools and special events. The program also coordinates regular beach cleanups and collaborates with other volunteer groups to reduce the impacts of marine debris. During his free time, you’ll still find him riding the waves.
Jorge A. Angulo-Valdés
Associate Research Scientist
LOCATION USA / CUBA
Dr. Angulo-Valdes holds double appointments between a Cuban and American institution; he’s a member of the Scientific Council at the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana and a visiting assistant professor at Eckerd College in Florida. Prior to that, he served as the the Director of the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana from 2009-2014.
Dr. Angulo-Valdés graduated from the University of Havana in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, then obtained a Master’s Degree in Marine Management and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Dalhousie University, Canada.
Dr. Angulo-Valdes has made a significant contribution to expand and strength the collaboration between Cuban and American institutions. He has organized several successful exchange initiatives between the two countries. His research interest include recreational fisheries, management effectiveness of marine protected areas, community-based research, natural resources conservation and bio economics. He has published over 40 papers and several book chapters dealing with his research areas. Dr Angulo-Valdes has led several research projects funded by international agencies such as the International Development Research Institute, Canada; the Whitley Fund for Nature, England; Sea to Shore Alliance, USA; Environmental Defense Fund, USA. Dr Angulo-Valdes is working with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) to implement a Cuba program to contribute to regional efforts to preserve bonefish, tarpon, permits and their habitats.
Dr. Anmari Alvarez Aleman
Caribbean Research Director
LOCATION USA / CUBA
Dr. Anmari Alvarez Aleman has been working with manatees, dolphins and the coastal communities that interact with these species for more than 15 years. Her passion for marine mammals and conservation began as a youth growing up in Cuba leading her to pursue academic studies and a career in this field as an adult.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Havana, Cuba, in 2006. After completing that degree, she worked with the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana, with a focus on the conservation of the Antillean manatee. In 2010, she completed her master’s degree in Integrated Management of Coastal Zones.
In 2015 she was granted an assistantship position at the University of Florida and became the first Cuban student to hold this opportunity in more than 50 years. She began to pursue a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Ecology with a concentration on Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. The core of her research was population genetics and the conservation of the West Indian manatee with a focus on Cuba. After four years of research and studies, and the birth of a baby boy, she graduated in December 2019.
Her research has generated scientific knowledge to support governmental actions to benefit species and habitats on both local and regional levels. She has published her findings in scientific journals and presented at several workshops and international conferences.
She often collaborates with the scientific group of the Manatee Monitoring Program of the National System of Protected Areas, Cuba. She is the Meso-America Regional Co-Chair of the Sirenia Specialist Group, IUCN http://locus39.net/iucnssg/?page_id=75.
As the Caribbean Program Director at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, she designs, implements, and oversees research and conservation projects of marine megafauna and their habitats in the Caribbean region. Some of her current research includes understanding the connection between the Cuban and Florida manatee population and generating knowledge about the importance of Marine Protected Areas for manatee conservation in the Caribbean.
-Anmari Alvarez-Alemán, Margaret E. Hunter, Thomas K. Frazer, James A. Powell, Eddy Garcia Alfonso, James D. Austin. 2022. The first assessment of the genetic diversity and structure of the endangered West Indian manatee in Cuba. DOI: 10.1007/s10709-022-00172-8.
-Alvarez-Alemán, A. Angulo-Valdés, J. Powell, J. García, E. Taylor, C.K. 2016. Antillean manatee occurrence in a marine protected area, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. DOI: 10.1017/S0030605315001143.
-Alvarez-Alemán, A. García, E. Forneiro Martin-Viana, Y. Hernández González, Z. Escalona Domenech, R. Hurtado, A. Powell, J. Jacoby, CA, Frazer, TK. 2018. Status and conservation of manatees in Cuba: historical observations and recent insights. Bulletin of Marine Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5343/bms.2016.1132.
-Alvarez-Alemán, A., Austin, JD. Jacoby, CA. TK. Frazer. 2018. Cuban Connection: Regional Role for Florida’s Manatees. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5 (294). doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00294.
Nicole Bartlett is a Research Assistant for CMA Research Institute, conducting photo identification, behavioral observations, and monitoring of tagged animals from South Florida to South Carolina. This sometimes involves sailing a powerboat across a no-motor zone with a bimini, playing “Gator or Log” with locals, or finding wayward boat ramps via Google Earth.
Nicole first started working with Sea to Shore in 2013 carrying out onsite survey and photo identification. Duties expanded from there to include assisting with manatee captures and rescues, vegetation surveys, temperature monitoring, animal verification, data entry, and drawing manatee cartoons for her favorite vendor (thanks Sonotronics!).
Prior to working for CMA Research Institute, you were likely to find Nicole canoeing various Florida waterways with Outward Bound, or hiking in Texas. Originally from Arkansas, Nicole saw her first manatee while traveling through Mosquito Lagoon. Nicole spends her free time growing various hot peppers, riding motorcycles, and catering to the whims of the two cats and dog who insist she spoil them relentlessly.
Senior Research Scientist
Monica has over twenty-five years of research experience studying manatee behavior and habitat use. She has worked for state, non-profit or private research organizations and has assisted organizations in developing manatee research projects. Her knowledge and skills have helped provide valuable input to state and federal agencies when developing or improving manatee habitat protection measures.
As a native Floridian always in or near the water, Monica grew up fascinated with how marine mammals interacted and learned from each other. Fresh out of college, Monica focused on marine mammal cognitive and adaptive abilities. She later worked on projects focusing on oyster larvae development, Florida game-fish stock enhancement, fish tag shedding/retention and fish population monitoring programs.
Monica found her passion when she first worked on a wild Florida manatee tagging project in the early 1990s. She found her niche in trying to understand how manatees learn and make choices in their day-to-day lives. She has focused her research on manatee behavior related to habitat selection. Currently research efforts spotlight documenting manatee use of springs along the St Johns River which do not have manatee protection plans and at industrial sites to determine the level of manatee site attraction during winter.
Monica is also working with partners to determine manatee fringe habitat use within Alabama and Georgia while also conducting photo identification of encountered manatees. She has expanded her research to also include habitat health and enhancement under different management strategies. Healthy spring systems are vital for manatee survival and are directly associated with habitat selection. Monica has more than seven years of professional animal training experience with dolphins, birds, and terrestrial animals, along with 20 additional years of personal experience training dogs for competitive obedience, agility or herding competitions. Enjoying animal behavior is not just a job for her but a way of life.
Belize Program Coordinator
A native of Belize, Jamal Galves has been passionate about protecting wildlife since childhood. From the age of 12, he knew he wanted to work with animals – specifically manatees.
In 1998, Jamal met Executive Director Dr. James “Buddy” Powell and USGS scientist Robert Bonde while participating in his first manatee health assessment. Working with these two renowned scientists influenced Jamal enormously; he was immediately hooked and soon found himself taking every opportunity to work with manatees. While most of his high school classmates were spending their weekends and holidays relaxing, Jamal was working with scientists, monitoring and feeding two manatees in their final stages of rehabilitation. He eventually helped with the tracking of those two manatees after their release.
After finishing high school, Jamal volunteered to work with Nicole Auil Gomez, an associate with Sea to Shore Alliance, now CMA Research Institute, and was eventually given a full-time position as coordinator of the manatee project., continuing his dream of protecting wildlife. Jamal’s responsibilities include addressing and responding to any manatee related incidents in the entire country of Belize; capturing, tagging, and tracking manatees; collecting data; rescue, release and monitoring of rehabilitated manatees in the wild; and educational outreach and awareness.
Jamal recently was awarded the prestigious Ocean Hero Award by Oceana Belize for his dedicated, passionate and heroic work with the endangered manatee. He has also been presented with the Belize National Hero Award (Meritorious Award” from the Belize Government for his conservation contribution to the country. He have been named a National Geographic Explorer and Natgeo PhotoArk Edge Fellow. “These animals are in trouble and need our help – I have dedicated my life to helping this species,” he said upon accepting the award.
In 2018 Jennifer joined Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute transitioning from rehab to post release monitoring of manatees once they have been released as a part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.
As a Florida native, Jennifer has always had an interest in protecting the wildlife and places of her home. In 2002 she started volunteering with the manatee hospital at Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park. She earned a permanent position in the Florida Native Wildlife Department and David A Straz Jr, Manatee Hospital, working to rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned manatees.
When not tracking manatees, Jennifer is a distance runner, running races to benefit her favorite nonprofit organizations. She also spends her time backpacking, kayaking and hiking with her husband.
Amanda is a part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership and is responsible for tracking young, naïve manatees (mainly on the East Coast of Florida) who have been released into the wild after rehabilitation. In order to ensure released manatees are integrating into the wild population, she monitors their behavior, movements, and body condition and coordinates the rescue of any naïve manatee that fails to succeed in the wild.
She previously served in the US Navy and simultaneously began working on her Biology degree. She later worked as a vet tech, a wildlife photographer, and a Hawaiian Monk Seal biologist where she gained an appreciation for field work and goofy marine mammals. She enjoys yoga, freediving, lengthy beach excursions, various creative projects, and pampering her pups, Fin and Coconut.
North Atlantic Right Whale Research
Research Scientist, South Carolina Team
Natasha has been a member of the South Carolina North Atlantic right whale aerial survey team since 2021. She received her Bachelor’s in Biology and since then has worked on long-term monitoring research projects that focused on leatherback sea turtles, humpback whales, and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Since she was raised in New Hampshire, Natasha grew up surrounded by forests, lakes, and enjoyed quick access to the beach that fostered a love of the ocean early on. She has been fascinated by whales for as long as she can remember.
During the summer Natasha can be found in New England working as a naturalist on M/V Captain’s Lady III, a whale watching vessel out of Newburyport, MA. When not on the water looking for whales, she can usually be found exploring the surrounding area with her furry side-kick Dusky, a mini Australian shepherd.
Research Scientist, North Carolina Team
Meghan is the North Carolina Team Lead for North Atlantic Right Whale aerial surveys. From a young age, she has had a love for the underwater world. This passion persisted during the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology at Merrimack College, Andover, MA. During this time, she interned as a Marine Mammal Researcher with Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation in Portsmouth, NH. Further related experiences include internships at New England Aquarium in Boston, MA, with the Penguin Colony and Marine Mammal Education and Research team. Meghan has also completed a Master’s Degree in Marine Mammal Science at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
In the midst of these experiences, Meghan has spent several summers working as a deckhand for Granite State Whale Watch in Rye, NH. She particularly enjoys working on M/V Uncle Oscar, an Isles of Shoals ferry and tour boat. When the summer whale watch season concludes in the Gulf of Maine, Meghan is eager to take flight with CMARI and “migrate” south with the whales.
Research Scientist, South Carolina Team
Shelby is excited to return to CMARI for her second season as South Carolina’s Team Leader for North Atlantic Right Whale aerial monitoring. She hails from small-town Wisconsin and got her Master’s in marine mammal science from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and her Bachelor’s in marine biology from the University of New England in Maine. In the off-season, she is a marine mammal visual and acoustic observer along the East Coast of the United States and Canada, informing industry vessels on how to operate safely around marine life. Shelby has also participated in a variety of other fun monitoring and research projects, including Hawaiian monk seals in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, bottlenose dolphins in Galveston Bay, Texas, manatee in St. Petersburg, Florida, gray whales in the Puget Sound, Washington, humpback whales in Puerto Rico, and killer whales in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
Apart from field projects, Shelby has spent the last six years measuring dorsal fin and body proportions of Hawaiian dolphins. Her focus revolves around distinguishing similar-looking dolphin species and using body proportions to identify and individual’s characteristics, such as age and sex. She has also used her research to examine health conditions of marine mammals, including assessing the decline of whale body size after entanglement, and measuring the extent of dolphin skin lesions after tropical storms. Her research interests revolve around physiology and behavior, and there’s a special place in her heart for all things polar. When not looking for marine life, Shelby enjoys nature photography, spinning yarn, crocheting, and dog sledding with her Alaskan malamute.
Research Scientist, Georgia Team
Melanie White is the CMARI project manager for the North Atlantic right whale conservation program based on Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Between the months of December and March, Melanie coordinates and participates in survey flights off the coast of Georgia and northeast Florida on the only known calving ground for this critically endangered species. Melanie has been flying North Atlantic right whale surveys since December 2005 and has been based in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. She works as an observer, survey coordinator and field supervisor monitoring the location, individual identification and real-time vessel mitigation for right whales.
Melanie grew up in upstate New York surrounded by lakes and forests, so her love for the ocean only surfaced thanks to a family trip to Acadia National Park, Maine. The variety of marine creatures found in countless tide pools captivated her and triggered the start of her fascination to learn about the world below the waterline of the vast ocean.
Melanie has spent time on both coasts of the United States studying large whales. She has monitored the gray whale population in British Columbia, Canada and now spends her time in both the northern and southern sectors of the eastern seaboard. During the summer Melanie can be found on the whale watching boat, M/V Granite State, in Rye, New Hampshire where she works as a naturalist and research associate with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Melanie then heads south in the winter where she works as the project manager for CMA Research Institute during the annual right whale calving season.
When she is not in the field searching for whales, Melanie tends to gravitate to the environment surrounding her. She enjoys hiking, aquatic birding, searching for treasures on the beach and nature photography.
Research Scientist, Georgia Team
David started as a Right Whale Aerial Observer with CMA Research Institute in 2020, and is eager to return. From December through March, David is based on Saint Simons Island, Georgia to participate in survey flights to monitor the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. The waters off the coasts of Georgia and the Atlantic coast of Florida are the right whales’ only known calving grounds, and these survey flights help assess the distribution, health and safety of the whales and their young. This is crucial for giving them a fighting chance to survive as a species.
Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, David spent his entire childhood on the beach and in the ocean. It had a huge impact on him, and made him want to study the marine environment. He left his home state to study Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island, and he found himself settling in Providence, Rhode Island after college.
Previously, David has been a Fisheries Observer, where he collected data on fish stock assessments and conducted biological sampling all across the North Atlantic. He also spent time as a Protected Species Observer, recording information on marine mammals and sea turtles on offshore wind farm projects for weeks at a time. Currently, he can be found as a naturalist and data contributor in Boston, Massachusetts for the New England Aquarium Whale Watch. Once the whale watch season ends, he heads down to Georgia to take part in our aerial survey flights.
When not on the water or in the air, he can usually be found sketching, hiking and reading, preferably outside!
Research Scientist, North Carolina team
Renee is excited to be a part of the CMARI North Carolina field team, working as an aerial observer for the first time this year. Having grown up surrounded by the sea on Long Island, NY, Renee has always known she wanted to work protecting our oceans. After graduating in 2017 from the University of Rhode Island with a BS in Marine Biology, she was eager to dive right in. She worked as a research lab tech studying phytoplankton after graduation, and was also an intern at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, working with California sea lions. After completing two internships at Mystic, she interned with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Lab at MOTE Marine lab in Florida. There she performed photo ID on the local resident bottlenose dolphins. Having caught the photo ID bug, she then went on to do another photo ID internship, this time with the Aquarium of the Pacific in California. There she photographed aboard whale watching vessels, documenting any marine life they came across. In 2020 Renee settled back in Rhode Island and in 2021, she began working at Mystic Aquarium as an assistant animal trainer on the Arctic Coast and Pacific Northwest team, more specifically working with their beluga whale pod. After a year though, she couldn’t pass up an amazing opportunity to work protecting North Atlantic Right Whales.
When Renee is not working she enjoys expressing herself creatively through drawing, watercolor, pottery and photography. You can also most likely find her cuddling with her cat, Theo.
Research Scientist, North Carolina team
Jess is a first-year observer with the North Carolina Right Whale Aerial Observation team. At a young age, Jess learned to scuba dive from their dad, which spurred a life-long love of the marine environment. Jess graduated with a BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they completed an honors thesis investigating impacts of climate change on a temperate coral species. Jess went on to intern with Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, worked on projects exploring prey composition of bottlenose dolphins and thermoregulation of elephant seals at UC Santa Cruz, and worked with Allied Whale and Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company in Maine. These experiences enabled Jess to discover their passion for researching cetaceans, and they are very excited to contribute to the ongoing research with CMARI as part of this team.
Research Scientist, South Carolina team
Maeghan is excited to be joining CMARI for the 2022-2023 field season as a North Atlantic right whale aerial observer with the South Carolina team. After graduating from St. Lawrence University with a B.S. in Conservation Biology, Maeghan joined the Peace Corps as a Coastal Resource Management Specialist in the Philippines. During her service, she collaborated with community partners to implement various projects involving habitat restoration, environmental education, and marine protected area establishment. Upon returning to the United States, Maeghan pursued opportunities in the marine mammal field. She has worked as a Stranding Team intern for IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research program in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as a Rescue and Response Dispatcher with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, and most recently, as a Field Technician with The Alaska Whale Foundation in southeast Alaska. When not in the field, she enjoys just about anything outdoors, especially hiking, climbing (both rocks and trees), and free diving. When not outside, she can be found baking copious amounts of chocolate chip cookies.
Research Scientist, Georgia team
Marcy has been with Georgia’s Right Whale Aerial survey team since 2014. Previously, she has flown off Cape Cod with NEFSC Protected Species Branch in Woods Hole, MA and as part of the survey team for the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.
She was born and raised in SE Georgia, where trips to the nearby beaches gave her desire to work in the field of Marine Biology. She graduated from Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) with Bachelors in Marine Biology and Ecology.
When not working with Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, she continues working as a marine mammal observer and protected species observer in the Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and even in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea in Alaska.