• Bachelor of Science, Florida State University, 1990, Biology
• Master of Science, University of Central Florida, 2007, Biology
Monica has over twenty years of research experience studying manatee behavior and habitat use. She has worked for state, non-profit or private research organizations and has assisted organizations in developing manatee research projects. Her knowledge and skills have helped provide valuable input to state and federal agencies when developing or improving manatee habitat protection measures.
As a native Floridian always in or near the water, Monica grew up fascinated with how marine mammals interacted and learned from each other. Fresh out of college, Monica focused on marine mammal cognitive and adaptive abilities. She later worked on projects focusing on oyster larvae development, Florida game-fish stock enhancement, fish tag shedding/retention and fish population monitoring programs.
Monica found her passion when she first worked on a wild Florida manatee tagging project in the early 1990s. She found her niche in trying to understand how manatees learn and make choices in their day-to-day lives. She has focused her research on manatee behavior related to habitat selection. Currently research efforts spotlight documenting manatee use of natural springs along the St Johns River which do not have manatee protection plans. She is also working at industrial sites to determine the degree of manatee site attraction during winter. Monica assists with photo-identification and is also working with partners to determine manatee fringe habitat use within Alabama and Georgia. She has expanded her research to also include habitat health and enhancement under different management strategies. Healthy spring systems are vital for manatee survival and are directly associated with habitat selection.
Monica has more than seven years of professional animal training experience with dolphins, birds, and terrestrial animals, along with fifteen additional years of personal experience training dogs for competitive obedience, agility or herding competitions. Enjoying animal behavior is not just a job for her but a way of life.