Meet Our Members: Kim Andreason and Laura Osteen
Meet Our Members:
Kim Andreason and Laura Osteen

They're on a mission for manatees

Volunteer Kim Andreason (above, center) with young students interested in manatees at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's Whale Fiesta. Andreason decided to get involved after many manatees died during a red tide outbreak in 1996. (Photo courtesy of Kim Andreason.)

There’s not a manatee to be found in California coastal waters, but that has never stopped Kim Andreason and Laura Osteen. Two of Save the Manatee Club’s top volunteers, they have made it their mission to educate Californians about manatees and what they can do to help

A marine and wildlife photographer for over 20 years, Osteen first became interested in manatees in the 1980s when friends Bob Bonde and Cathy Beck took a job in Florida as researchers for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project. A few years later, she came for a visit. ”Seeing and interacting with manatees was, and still is, the most incredible experience I have had,” she says.

SMC Volunteer Laura Osteen (at right) with John Olguin, founder of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, CA, where Laura has staffed an education table many times for the Club. (Photo courtesy of Laura Osteen.)

During her Florida visits, Osteen was able to photograph manatees and actively participate in research projects. “I have been involved with radio and satellite tracking, manatee assessments in Crystal River, and health assessments at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park,” she says. “I am so appreciative of these opportunities, even though it is just a short time every year.”

Andreason also learned about manatees in the ‘80s. “I lived in South Florida for a year, and I instantly fell in love with the manatees then,” she says. “They just made me smile to see them. They are so beautiful and gentle.” It was during a red tide outbreak in 1996 that contributed to about 150 manatee deaths that Andreason decided to get involved. “I just could not sit back knowing so many manatees were dying and not do anything,” she says. “I called SMC and was told, yes, I could be a volunteer, even though I live in California.”

As Save the Manatee Club volunteers, Andreason and Osteen each staff tables at various festival and events in California. They give out literature, share information, take donations, and sign people up to adopt a manatee. They encourage people to sign up for the Club’s free e-newsletter or join the email action alert team. Osteen has also generously donated her manatee photos for use by the Club.

Volunteer Laura Osteen
Andreason and Osteen each staff tables at various festival and events where they give out literature and share information. (Photo courtesy of Laura Osteen.)

“Kim and Laura truly enjoy educating others about Florida's beloved manatees,” says Janice Nearing, SMC’s Director of Public Relations. “Their commitment and dedication is precious to our conservation work. Life's pace is often demanding, and yet both Kim and Laura find the time in their busy worlds to help with a cause near and dear to their hearts. It's a joy to know them and an honor to have them aboard our volunteer team.”

“When I first started volunteering for the Club in California, no one even knew what a manatee was,” says Osteen. “Now, 15 years later, not one person comes to the table and asks that question. In fact, most people, including children, know quite a bit about manatees.” Andreason agrees. “The kids in Southern California are very in tune with the environment,” she says. “Adults and children alike, who visit our table, are always happy to share their manatee memories. They always smile when they talk about manatees. Everyone who has seen one in person wants to see them again!”

Asked why it is important to educate people in California and other places outside of Florida, Andreason replies: “Everywhere man is destroying animal habitats, but the animals were there first. We must learn to live with and respect all nature. This includes manatees in Florida or the endangered Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly in Southern California. It is up to us!” “Protecting manatees is not just a Florida thing,” adds Osteen. “We must all share in this responsibility, no matter where we live. “

Three Sisters Springs Supporters travel to Tallahassee to present their case.
Above, a favorite manatee photo by Laura Osteen. "Over the years, Save the Manatee Club has used many of my photos for education and promotion," says Laura. "They always ask permission and say thank you for every photo used. But, it is I who say, thank you to them, for the opportunity to have my photos displayed and admired in so many ways. What better way to be involved and hopefully help save an animal that will always be on the top of my list." (Photo © Laura M. Osteen.)

Sign Up to Volunteer!
We need volunteers in California and other areas. Save the Manatee Club volunteers staff tables at manatee-related events, engage in speaking presentations, help out in the SMC offices, write letters and send e-mails on issues of concern to manatees, and report information to manatee researchers. YOU can make a difference for manatees!

Interested? Get a description of volunteer positions and fill out our online volunteer application form.

  Betsy the manatee

Laura Osteen is the adoptive parent of Betsy, a manatee who lives at Elie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Betsy was named after Betsy Dearth, who was a ranger at the park. Betsy the manatee is very friendly and curious and is quick to investigate anything new. Ranger Dearth called her, "the inspector."

  Howie the manatee Kim Andreason is the adoptive parent of Howie, a manatee who frequents the warm waters of Blue Spring State Park in the winter. Howie has been known to winter at the park since 1971. One of Howie's favorite activities is to tip the research canoe -- complete with researchers in it!

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