Andy manages the Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory (MMPL) and
coordinates staff at the MMPL in responding to live and dead marine
mammal strandings and necropsy. He also serves as Florida's manatee
B.S. Marine Science with a Concentration in Biology,
Eckerd College, 1999
I graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in Marine
I always enjoyed the water and especially the life beneath it. I
grew up fishing on lakes in the Midwest, and although it wasn't the
ocean, it did spark an interest to study marine life. I earned a
degree in Marine Science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg,
Florida. Throughout my life, I have always been interested in
studying large marine animals. When a job opened up at the path lab
after graduation, I knew that this job would give me an opportunity
to study marine mammals.
From June 1999 to June 2005 I worked at the Marine Mammal
Pathobiology Lab (MMPL) in St. Petersburg, Florida. My primary
duties at the lab during this period included the salvage and
necropsy of stranded marine mammals in Florida. A majority of the
dead marine mammals I worked with were manatees, but I also gained
experience recovering and necropsying bottlenose dolphins (and
other small cetaceans) as wellas large whales (i.e. sperm whales).
During this time, I was also able to spend some time in Sausalito,
CA working with live and dead stranded California sea lions and
seals at the Marine Mammal Center.
While at the MMPL, I was also able to gain valuable experience
in capturing, handling, and taking biomedical samples from manatees
and dolphins. I served as the captain of the manatee capture boat
and helped coordinate manatee rescue and research captures out of
the path lab.
In June 2005, I was promoted to a marine mammal field lab
coordinator in Jacksonville, Florida. My primary duties included
managing the marine mammal carcass salvage and rescue for northeast
Florida, assisting the right whale research program, and
coordinating the FWC's manatee capture and rescue efforts. While in
Jacksonville, I became trained and certified to respond and assist
in efforts to disentangle large whales in Florida and I was able to
use this training on several occasions and successfully
disentangled a Humpback whale. During my time at the Jacksonville
Field Laboratory, I also received training in right whale photo
identification and right whale dart biopsy.
In June 2007, I returned to the MMPL as a research
administrator. In this current position, I manage the MMPL and
coordinate staff at the MMPL in responding to live and dead marine
mammal strandings and necropsy. I still continue to serve as
Florida's manatee rescue coordinator.
Over the past eight years, I have also had the opportunity to
capture and handle manatees in Belize, Puerto Rico, Georgia, and
throughout Florida for both rescue and research capture operations.
I have also worked with several organizations and agencies that
deal with marine mammals in Florida and the Caribbean.
What are you working on now?
I recently returned from Crystal River where I was
working with the US Geological Survey's Sirenia Project to capture
and perform health assessments on manatees wintering in King's Bay.
This process involved setting nets around manatees that were using
the King's Bay area and pulling them to shore. Once on shore, a
team of biologists and veterinarians obtained biomedical samples
(including blood and skins samples), photographed scars, and
obtained a weight and then released the manatee back into the
What would you say is your biggest
I believe that my biggest accomplishment is the knowledge that I
have gained over the past eight years working with live and dead
marine mammals in Florida. I feel that I have used this knowledge
to better our understanding of the marine mammals in Florida. I
also feel that my hard work and dedication has helped to contribute
to better protection and conservation of marine mammals in
What do you like most about your career?
I enjoy waking up in the morning and not knowing what my day will
be like. Because of the uncertainties of my job, I often arrive at
the lab not knowing if I will be heading out to do a rescue or
heading into the lab to necropsy a manatee. This uncertainty keeps
me on my toes.
Another aspect of my job that I enjoy is rescuing injured
manatees. It can be hard work catching and handling manatees, but
it is also quite rewarding. Releasing a manatee back into the wild
is particularly satisfying when I helped with its rescue. Knowing
that I gave that manatee another chance at life keeps me doing this
What do you like least about your career?
There are a few aspects of my job that I can dislike. One of my
primary duties at the lab is to assist with manatee and dolphin
necropsies. On occasion it can be difficult to see dead animals on
a daily basis. It is especially difficult working on animals that
have been killed because of human-related activities. Pregnant
female manatees that have been struck and killed by boats can be
This job can require long hours and often requires unexpected
weekend and holiday work. This can be difficult, especially when I
have plans with family or friends.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
Some of the biggest challenges at the lab are trying to accomplish
all the jobs I have been assigned to do. I lead a very active life,
and sometimes I have to put my life on hold to rescue or necropsy
manatees. This is usually a sacrifice I gladly accept, but it can
be difficult when I have to cancel plans with friends. Coordinating
manatee rescues can also be a challenge. Because we never have
advance warning about injured manatees, rescues can happen any time
of day or night. Trying to find people that are ready to go and
getting the rescuers to the injured animal can be quite a task.
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
My first suggestion would be to find an organization and either
volunteer or become an intern. Usually these programs can give you
a taste of what the field is like. Often organizations will hire
volunteers and interns if a job opens. My other suggestion would be
to take advantage of opportunity, and learn as much as you can. If
you are interested in a certain field, it would be good to read up
on the important issues concerning that field.