Nearly $7,000 was donated to Mote Marine Laboratory recently in honor of 13-year old Lucie Gray-Miller for her bat mitzvah, a Jewish celebration when a female becomes an adult. The funds will support Mote’s Manatee Research Program and Mote’s resident manatees, Hugh and Buffett.

Gray-Miller chose Mote as her mitzvah project.

“I’ve always loved visiting Mote, especially the manatees, which is why I wanted to do my project on them,” Gray-Miller said. I know they are endangered, and I want to be able to help them. I just love everything at Mote — the otters, too!”

Gray-Miller lives in Washington, D.C., but her grandparents live on Siesta Key, where she has visited since she can remember.

“One of my favorite experiences is when I first met Molly the giant squid at Mote,” Gray-Miller said. (“Molly” is a rare, preserved giant squid specimen.) “That is when I decided I wanted to work with sea life and become a marine biologist. One of my other favorite experiences at Mote was meeting Hugh and Buffett. They are just remarkable animals and I am still star struck by them and manatees in general.”

Hugh and Buffett are two of the most charismatic residents in the Aquarium. As animal ambassadors, these half brothers introduce thousands of visitors to manatees each year and help spread the word about how to protect endangered manatees in the wild.

Hugh and Buffett are the only manatees in the world trained to participate in special manatee research projects designed to help us understand how manatees perceive their natural environment.

Mote’s Manatee Research Program conducts year-round studies of manatee behavioral ecology, distribution, habitat use, genetics and population status in Florida. The MRP also provides advice on manatee conservation and research actions throughout Florida and the wider Caribbean, and staff further advise conservation projects for sirenians (manatees and dugongs) globally. The Mote MRP is one of three organizations that coordinate and maintain a statewide Manatee Photo Identification System (MIPS) catalog. Long term aerial and photo-identification surveys throughout the year have proven valuable to local and County efforts to manage manatees in ways that attempt to balance human activities and sustainability of manatees and their habitat.

“We are amazed by the incredible generosity we have received here at Mote in Lucie’s honor, and we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to her for choosing Mote as her bat mitzvah project,” said Dr. Michael. P. Crosby, Mote’s President and CEO. “Lucie is an example of just how much of a positive impact the next generation can have on our oceans and our environment.”