NASA Podcasts

Kennedy Space Center Balances Nature and Launch Operations
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Narrator: As part of NASA Kennedy Space Center's first Innovation Expo on Sept. 6, aquatic biologists with Inomedic Health Applications took employees on a boat tour of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is an expansive piece of Florida paradise that has been protected from commercial and residential development for the past five decades because of spaceflight operations at Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Because the area has remained fairly untouched, its nooks and crannies have become a sanctuary for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals.

Doug Scheidt, Aquatic Biologist/Inomedic Health Applications: From a regional standpoint, we have over 70 percent of the wetlands, we have one of the largest expanses of sea grass beds in the area and this is important outside the KSC gates basically because these are high quality habitats. So animals can move into the area, so it's a regional importance. And some of these animals can actually move outside the region and can actually move globally.

Narrator: Biologists are able to track the movements and survival rates of sport fish, sharks and protected sea turtles with the Florida Atlantic Coast Telemetry Array. The strategically placed constellation of sensors tracks tagged animals as they move through Kennedy and the rest of the Indian River Lagoon, sending data back to various government agencies and universities. They've even detected other researchers' animals from as far north as Connecticut and New York.

Eric Reyier, Aquatic Biologist/Inomedic Health Applications: The technology is sort of expensive and so by teaming up with some of these other groups, we're able to only provide a fairly small percentage of the infrastructure but we're able to answer some pretty important questions.

Narrator: The reasons for protecting the area are three-fold, according to biologists. First, federal mandates are in place protecting the wetlands and surrounding lagoonal waters, as well as several threatened or endangered species of animals. Second, through stewardship, the space agency is working diligently to execute its mission without compromising our planet's resources. And third, there is a substantial role that the ecological health of Kennedy's wildlands and the refuge play in our economy.

Eric Reyier, Aquatic Biologist/Inomedic Health Applications: The economic value of the Indian River Lagoon was estimated at about 3.7 billion dollars with a "B" every year. Fisheries alone is worth $330 million a year to the region in terms of benefit. That's got to be hundreds of jobs directly, or indirectly. And by preserving this habitat and the wildlife in a fairly healthy state, we preserve that economic benefit as well.

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