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Manta Ray expert swims into Cape Haze Feb. 22

February 15, 2024
By Garland Pollard

Jessica Pate, the lead scientist for the Florida Manta Project, will be in town on Thursday, Feb. 22 to speak on The Mysterious Manta Rays of Florida.

Pate started the Florida Manta Project in 2016 as a part of the work of the Marine Megafauna Foundation. She will be here as part of a lecture series entitled the “Lemon Bay Coastal Seminar Series.”

She first saw manta rays in Florida while working on sea turtle nesting beaches, and was surprised to learn that manta rays there were unstudied.

Since the inception of the project, she has described South Florida as a potential nursery habitat for young manta rays and has documented a high frequency of “anthropogenic impacts” (i.e., fishing gear entanglement and vessel strikes) on mantas.

Originally from eastern North Carolina, Pate is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she majored in environmental science, and studied abroad in Mexico and Kenya.

She has lived and worked around the world as a biologist, including studying sea turtles in Costa Rica and Ghana and diving in Honduras. She put her marine biology to work when she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

The event is one of a series of monthly lectures sponsored by the Lemon Bay Conservancy.

Other upcoming speakers include Larry Brand, Professor, University of Miami Rosenstiel School who will speak on “Blooms of blue-green algae and red tide” on March 14.

Jerry Lorenz, State Director of Research, Florida Audubon will speak on “Roseate spoonbills in Florida Bay – a pink canary in a coal mine” on April 11.

In addition, the Lemon Bay Conservancy is still looking for community sponsors for other upcoming talks, including guest hosting.

To get involved, contact organizer Rob Robbins at

To find out more, visit or

About the event:

Thursday Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. with refreshments at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the Cape Haze Community Center, located at 180 Spyglass Alley, Placida. Parking is available on both streets. To reach the Community Center from Placida Road, turn west onto Cape Haze Drive. At the traffic circle, take the first right (heading north) onto Spaniards Rd. The Community Center will be just ahead on your left. The seminars are free and open to the public.