For the Love of Manatees

School of Biological Sciences selects Patrick Rose to receive Alumni Award
Patrick Rose
Patrick M. Rose (B.S. '73, M.S. '75)
Executive Director,
Save the Manatees Club

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2019, UMKC School of Biological Sciences is honoring Patrick M. Rose (B.S. ’73, M.S. ’75) with their Alumni Achievement Award.

Considered one of the world’s leading experts on the Florida manatee, Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, has tirelessly advocated for their health and habitat for more than 40 years. He spoke with us recently about his pivotal roles in protecting the species.

When did you decide to focus on manatees?

I decided to focus on manatees in my later teens when I learned to SCUBA dive and build underwater camera housings. It only took seeing manatees underwater one time to be moved by the disfiguring scars and cuts from propeller strikes. I felt empathetic and wanted to do something to protect them, since there were no protections for them from speeding boats at that time in the late 1960s.

Tell us about your roles before joining the Save the Manatee Club.

The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission provided the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a grant to hire me as the first federal manatee recovery activities coordinator. My primary responsibilities centered on writing and facilitating the implementation of the first comprehensive and annotated manatee plan that later became the model for future manatee recovery plans. The plan detailed what would be required to recover manatees as a population and to identify required staffing and funding.

Upon completing that three-year assignment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funding to the Florida Department of Natural Resources to hire me as the state’s first manatee coordinator, a lone position tasked with building the state protection programs from scratch.

I later served as the administrator of the newly created Office of Protected Species for the Department of Environmental Protection. I was fortunate enough to shepherd the expansion of the programs to include dozens of other scientists and managers and was able to implement comprehensive manatee protection and recovery programs with an emphasis on aquatic ecosystem protection. I should point out that many of the programs we implemented were unprecedented in scope.

What is a typical day like for you as executive director of the Save the Manatee Club?

I must balance our scientific, educational, outreach, advocacy, legal and fundraising responsibilities while defending the organization from those who see our existence as a threat to speed boating or as an impediment to developing unsustainable developments within important aquatic habitats and seagrass communities.

What advice do you have for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

Be willing to volunteer to follow your passion. This is especially true when you are first starting out as it gives you a chance to prove your worth.

About the Alumni Awards

Rose will be honored at the 2019 UMKC Alumni Awards on March 15. Proceeds from the event will support student scholarships. In the last decade, the Alumni Awards events have raised more than $1 million in scholarships and immediate aid for students.

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