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All Creatures,

Episode 38: Manatee Research with Jonathan Cowart

June 14, 2018

Jonathan Cowart is a PhD candidate in the Aquatic Animal Health Program at University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Jonathan’s interest for marine science was developed through his years growing up on North Carolina’s coast at the southern end of the Outer Banks. He was fortunate enough to attend a high school which valued science education and was consistently under the direction of great educators. He completed his BSc in Marine Biology at University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) in 2014. During his time at UNCW, Jonathan was introduced to marine mammal biology through volunteering with the stranding program, under the direction of Dr. Ann Pabst and William McLellan. Jonathan’s interest in manatees, specifically the Florida manatee, came about during his summer internship in the Manatee Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory. During this internship, he was able to observe multiple mating herds leading to his interest in manatee reproduction and eventual interest in the Aquatic Animal Health Program at University of Florida.

Jonathan’s research focuses on addressing the many gaps in our basic, fundamental knowledge of the reproductive physiology of male West Indian manatees. Jonathan hopes his research will help to better understand the reproductive physiology of male West Indian manatees in order to contribute towards better management/conservation of the population and the development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for this species. Through his research, he is currently working on multiple projects which include anatomical, histological, and immunohistochemical descriptions of the reproductive tract, semen characterization, descriptions of sperm structure, seminal plasma protein identification, and phylogenetic comparisons with elephants and hyraxes. Since the start of his PhD, Jonathan has worked collaboratively with many facilities and institutions, which have all aided in the development and conduction of his current research. These collaborations include the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Western Cape. After his PhD, Jonathan plans to continue his reproductive research on the West Indian manatee and hopes to utilize some of these reproductive techniques for assessing sperm characteristics in other deep-diving or cryptic marine mammals.

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