For Immediate Release

Contact:Deborah Gilleran
732.987.2266
gillerand@georgian.edu

Rebuild a Manatee Skeleton at Georgian Court Lecture

Lakewood, N.J., Feb. 1, 2008—The Georgian Court University Department of Biology will host a hands-on lecture entitled “Manatees: Elusive and Endangered Sirens of the Sea” at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, February 18, in the Arts and Science Center, Room 165, on the Lakewood campus. The presentation will be made by noted marine scientist and manatee expert Caryn Self-Sullivan, Ph.D., and will include audience participation in re-assembling a manatee skeleton.

“Manatees are endangered species,” says Dr. Louise Wootton, GCU associate professor of biology. “Though there are none in New Jersey, by understanding the problems of the manatee, we can understand some of the problems that many of the species in New Jersey are experiencing for similar reasons.”

She says that all endangered species around the world share common problems, and when we study one species that is vulnerable to extinction, “we come to understand a little more about the consequences of our actions.”

Presenter Dr. Caryn Self-Sullivan is president and founder of Sirenian International Inc., an organization dedicated to manatee research, education, and conservation. A partnership of scientists, students, educators, conservationists, and the public, members “believe in the process of integrating science, education, and culture to catalyze positive change in our shared environment, Mother Earth,” according to their Web site, sirenian.org.

To help visualize the size and mass of manatees, which average 9 to 10 feet long and weigh an average of 900 to 1,200 pounds, Dr. Self-Sullivan will bring a complete manatee skeleton, which participants will be urged to help assemble.

“The manatee was killed in a boat collision in Florida,” says Dr. Wootton of the skeletal remains. “Dr. Self-Sullivan uses it when working with students of all ages to help them understand what makes a manatee unusual, and yet what it shares with all vertebrates.”

Manatees (along with their cousins, the dugongs) are also known as Sea Cows, and belong to the scientific Order Sirenia. The only marine mammal herbivores, sirenians eat only sea grasses and other aquatic vegetation. There are only four species of sirenians living on Earth today, three manatees and one dugong. The species are vulnerable to extinction because of habitat loss and other effects of human population growth.

Dr. Wootton explains that the lecture is part of a Georgian Court seminar series which allows graduate and undergraduate students to broaden their educations by meeting and interacting with real-life scientists.

“Meeting the scientists enriches the classes that they take,” she says, “and gives real-life learning.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. Though there is no cost, reservations are strongly suggested to ensure adequate seating. For more information or to make a reservation, contact Dr. Louise Wootton at 732.987.2349.

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at 90 Woodbridge Center Drive in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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