For one long weekend each January since 2009, the Espedeco Tree Farm in Citrus County, Florida hosts adventurers, leading manatee scientists, international and local conservationists, and the surrounding community to learn about and see manatees and the vanishing ecosystem that surrounds their critical winter home, the Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs.
Oceanic Society and Espedeco Tree Farm support and promote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's guidance for passive observation of manatees.
Guest lecturers include staff of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge complex, education and wildlife rescue volunteers and staff with the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, professional wildlife photographers, Florida conservation advocates, and leading manatee scientists who discuss their latest research. Lecturers/participants have included:
The goal of the workshop is to allow for the exchange of ideas combined with a respectful experience of manatees and their entire ecosystem, thus providing a meaningful connection to and understanding of the vital need to protect and respect these integrated habitats.
To deepen participants' connection with nature we explore a thousand acres of certified sustainable tree farm—managed to allow for wood, water, wildlife, and recreation—and the natural Florida habitats that surround it; private, protected land in the heart of manatee country that has been preserved and protected for over 100 years. These vanishing Florida habitats are vital to the conservation of manatees and are the overall focus of our yearly manatee workshop. This ecosystem immersion allows for participants' interactions with manatees within the context of understanding the ecology of the local area.
What are Oceanic Society and Espedeco Tree Farm doing for manatee conservation?
Samantha Whitcraft holds a bachelor in Natural Sciences from Harvard University and earned her master of Marine Affairs and Policy at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. As a conservation biologist, she has worked with National Geographic, WildAid and local communities to research and develop sustainable ecotourism and "citizen science." A resident of Florida, her fieldwork has taken her to the Amazon, Kiribati, the Bahamas, Fiji, and the Galapagos.