Grazing peacefully through shallow waterways, the Florida manatee is one of the state’s most beloved creatures. Due to a multitude of compounding, human-caused crises, the last couple years have been some of the deadliest on record for manatees. Years of worsening water quality from Florida’s unfettered agricultural pollution and real estate development have resulted in increased toxic algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching the seagrass meadows upon which the manatees depend. In 2021, Florida’s manatees died in massive numbers, with a record 1,100 manatees – more than 12 percent of the state’s total manatee population – perishing. Most died by starvation. In this episode, we speak with aquatic biologist Patrick Rose, the ‘MVP of manatee protection,’ who has worked for more than four decades to propel manatees to public prominence and to translate manatees’ popularity into enforced protections for these animals and their habitat. Rose, the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, tells us about the heartbreaking cost to these gentle giants of human derelictions, the critical importance of cleaning up Florida’s waterways, and what it is about manatees that has inspired Rose and countless others to fight tirelessly for their future.
From tiny cowries to giant clams, seashells have gripped human imaginations since time immemorial. In her magnificent new book, The Sound of the Sea, journalist Cynthia Barnett tells the epic history of humanity’s interactions with shells and the soft-bodied animals who make them. These stories of how we have treasured, traded, plundered, and coveted shells reveal much about who we are and who we’ve been, both good and bad. Barnett’s deep research ranges from the awe-inspiring “great cities of shell” of the Calusa people in Florida, to the use of cowrie shells as currency in the Atlantic slave trade, to the decimation of mollusk populations due to climate change and over-harvesting. In this episode, we speak with Barnett about what she describes as our “world of shell,” what shells can tell us about our past, how they have shaped our present, and how the future of shells and their animal makers is tied to our own.