A team of biologists wrestles a young male manatee onto a muddy beach along Florida's Crystal River in November 2006.
The scientists were conducting the first of three planned expeditions to study the manatees that migrate to the river every autumn.
"This is a really important study," said Nicole Adimey (pictured left, in blue cap), a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Partly at issue, she explained, is a mysterious outbreak among Crystal River manatees of a virus that had previously been found only in captive animals.
Though the virus is rarely harmful, little is known about where it originated, how many wild manatees have it, and what's causing the current outbreak, which can cause skin lesions and other symptoms.
"Is there some kind of environmental condition here? What are the factors that cause outbreaks in the wild?" Adimey said.
"It's a big management question for [us]."
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Photograph by Blake de Pastino/NGS