A marine biologist has made it her mission to save the endangered species. Her efforts are making a big wave in the marine biology community. Continue reading to learn more about Jessica Pate and her actions to preserve the manta ray.
Marine biologist Jessica Pate is the founder of the nonprofit Florida Manta Project. For the past seven years, she has dedicated her life’s work to studying the manta ray and working to preserve its population. The manta rays are the largest in the world. They can live up to 50 years and grow up to 29 feet. They have large, flat, diamond-shaped bodies and two horn-shaped fins coming out of their head, earning them the nickname “devil fish.” Manta rays enjoy living in tropical and subtropical areas, preferring temperate ocean waters. Once she encountered a manta ray off the Florida coast, she was enthralled and chose to make this mission her livelihood.
Per Science News, only one study of manta ray sightings off the Florida coast was published before Pate began her nonprofit. Pate created the Florida Manta Project and got to work. She “conducts aerial drone surveys, gathers accounts of citizen sightings and spends countless hours tagging, tracking and measuring the creatures.” All these efforts led to her first fantastic discovery. She located a manta ray nursery in southern Florida. It is only one of three that have been found globally. Pate has also been working on teaching local anglers how to keep the mantas safe while they are fishing. Continuing her work, she made another significant finding. Pate and her colleagues realized that the sicklefin devil ray, a relative of the manta ray, also calls the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico home. The two species are quite similar in size and shape, but sicklefin devils are usually more of a golden-brown, and mantas are black.
While the Florida Manta Project is progressing, there is still much work left to do before these sea creatures are considered safe. Stay tuned for updates on their progress. To read about Pate’s research in full, click here.