As 2013 winds down, Mote Marine Laboratory is looking to the future — to exciting new directions for our world-class marine science and education, to the next generation of exceptional marine researchers and to hope for tomorrow’s oceans.

This year, Mote’s new President and CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, took the helm following 27 years of successful leadership by Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, who became President Emeritus, and the year brought many other exciting changes, from a new International Consortium for Marine Conservation hosted by Mote to the first-ever college courses on the Lab’s Sarasota campus, which were made possible through a partnership with the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee.

New additions, such as the Lab’s first education programs in Charlotte Harbor, brought Mote closer than ever to its roots: the one-room Lab on Charlotte Harbor founded by famous “Shark Lady” Dr. Eugenie Clark in 1955.

As we look ahead to next-generation marine science, and to the future Eugenie Clarks among us, we’re proud to share our stories from 2013 — many of which are still unfolding.

In 2013, Mote conducted hundreds of studies on a wide range of issues critical to ocean health and supporting Southwest Florida’s economy.

Our efforts resulted in 63 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and thousands of stories about our research in popular media, as well as new books and book chapters. Mote scientists also expanded their international partnerships with researchers in Japan, Israel and other nations and expanded our partnerships with Southwest Florida communities.

Mote continued its mission to foster science and ocean literacy. Our school and public programs reached 29,023 children and adults through our special programming, and our Mote Mobile and other traveling exhibits reached more than a million people nationally and internationally. Mote’s new education programs in Charlotte County reached more than 6,000 participants and Mote hosted 30 high school interns and a record 180 college interns.

The Aquarium at Mote welcomed an estimated 345,000 of visitors, partly due to the success of our limited-time exhibit Sea Lions: On The Water’s Edge, which wrapped up on May 1. In February 2014, Mote will unveil its third limited-time exhibit: Survivors: Beautiful and Extreme Adaptations.

A total of 1,325 Mote volunteers worked 251,769 hours, sharing their time and expertise as Aquarium docents, behind-the-scenes contributors and even research assistants in the Lab. Together with Mote’s interns, they saved the Lab an estimated $5.5 million.

Mote Launches New Education Programs in Charlotte Harbor
In January 2013, Mote launched its first-ever Informal Science Education programs in Charlotte Harbor. These new programs, including partnership efforts with YMCA, have reached more than 6,000 kids and adults to date.

Mote developed the Charlotte Harbor education programs in 2012 thanks to a donation from Regions Bank, which provides an office in Punta Gorda, and a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District and Charlotte County to support new educators.

Mote is based in Sarasota and was originally founded on the coast of Charlotte Harbor, where it currently operates a field research station and recently opened a community outreach office on Boca Grande.


Former First Lady Hails New Mote Office on Boca Grande During Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Former First Lady Laura Bush hailed Mote Marine Laboratory’s new satellite office on Boca Grande as an important resource for ocean conservation during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 9.

The ribbon cutting marked the opening of the office, which is designed to be a place where residents and visitors can learn about Mote’s current and proposed marine research programs in Charlotte Harbor, as well as all the research, education and outreach programs that Mote undertakes from its main campus in Sarasota. More than 100 people attended the event, including children from the Island School, which visited Mote’s Mobile Exhibit on hand for the event.

Dispersant and Oil from Deepwater Horizon Toxic to Baby Corals, Says Mote Study
“Baby” corals of at least some species are vulnerable to Deepwater Horizon oil and are especially likely to die when exposed to dispersants used during a spill, according to a lab-based study by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists that was published online Jan. 9 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

This study involved the first controlled test of how Deepwater Horizon oil and the dispersant Corexit® 9500 affect coral larvae — drifting offspring of corals that must settle and grow to maintain and expand reefs. While the study focused on two coral species from the Florida Keys — an area not directly impacted by the spill — the results highlight concerns about corals nearer to the spill site and provide new insights for mitigating oil spills near reefs.


New Turtle Debuts in The Aquarium at Mote
A new sea turtle named “Caleb” debuted in January in The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, which is providing the turtle a permanent home because it has impaired swimming abilities and cannot be returned to the wild.

Caleb is the first Kemp’s ridley turtle — considered the most endangered sea turtle species on Earth — to become a permanent resident in Mote’s exhibit Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors. The exhibit also houses loggerhead and green turtles that could not be released, has a hospital for hatchling sea turtles and features educational displays about Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research, highlighting how the public can help sea turtles survive.

Scientists Call for Society to Change the Way We Refer to Shark Behavior
In January, researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia and Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. reported that using the term “shark attack” leads to misperceptions and inaccurate risk reporting.

The term “shark attack” is typically used by the media, government officials, researchers and the public to describe almost any kind of human-shark interaction — even those where no contact or injury occurs between humans and sharks.

In their new paper in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Christopher Neff of the University of Sydney and Dr. Robert Hueter, leader of Mote’s Center for Shark Research — the only Congressionally designated national research center in the U.S. focused on sharks — proposed a new system of classification to support more accurate scientific reporting about shark interactions, along with more accurate public discussion about shark risk to swimmers and divers.

Update: In August, The American Elasmobranch Society (AES), the leading society of shark researchers in the U.S., announced its new resolution urging media outlets to adopt new terminology proposed in the Neff-Hueter paper. The resolution encouraged high-level media outlets “to adopt a labeling typology for the multiples types of interactions and outcomes associated with shark-human interactions, thereby resisting use of the term ‘attack’ without scientific basis and providing more accurate reporting.”


New Study Seeks to Develop Water-quality Standards for Tidal Creeks
In February, a team of Southwest Florida resource managers announced a new project to develop numeric nutrient criteria for tidal creeks with help from local scientists.

Numeric nutrient criteria define the maximum levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous permitted in a body of water to protect the biological resources and critical ecological functions that these habitats provide. In areas where runoff amounts, timing and nutrient loads have been altered, excessive nutrients and extreme high flows can degrade the ecological value of these small but important creek habitats.

The new two-year project, supported by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and led by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, includes partners from Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Programs; Janicki Environmental, Inc.; Mote Marine Laboratory; the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute; and the University of South Florida’s Center for Community Design and Research. Technical experts at county governments in the region also provide input and sampling services.

Project partners have classified the tidal creeks for relative impacts, soil types and other characteristic features, and they have selected 16 representative creeks to sample over a year. In November project partners began collecting samples to assess water quality, vegetation and bottom types, along with the number and species of juvenile and adult fishes using the various habitats.

Results will help reveal how specific levels of nutrient pollution affect these creeks — key information needed for state and federal resource managers to set water-quality standards in order to support the creeks’ biological health.


Mote Announces New International Marine Conservation Consortium with U.S. and International Partners
A new coalition of aquariums, zoos and governmental and non-governmental organizations hosted at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium debuted in February, with the goal of addressing critical needs for conservation of marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds and other species worldwide that have been underserved by science-based initiatives.

The new International Consortium for Marine Conservation was announced by its Director, Dr. John Reynolds of Mote, during the Second Signatory State Meeting of the Dugong MOU of the Convention of Migratory Species of the United Nations Environment Programme in Manila, Philippines. Participants in the new International Consortium say the need for wide-reaching conservation cannot be overstated:

  • Of the 63,837 species worldwide that have undergone population assessments, 19,817 — a startling one out of three — are threatened with extinction, according to a 2012 report from the IUCN Red List. But in reality, those figures don’t account for threats to species that have never been studied; nor do they address threats to human populations that occur when species disappear.


Keys Ocean Festival Draws Thousands, Doubles its Support for Reefs
The Fourth Annual Florida Keys Ocean Festival drew more than 7,500 visitors for ocean-themed education and fun on March 30, benefiting coral reef research and restoration by Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Festival, which took place at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, raised an estimated $32,000 for Mote’s Protect Our Reefs program — more than double the support raised last year. The festival also helped educate people of all ages about coral reefs and other natural ecosystems through conservation and environmental exhibits from more than 30 organizations.

Successful Lecture Series Wraps Up
If learning something new was your resolution for 2013, then Mote’s annual Special Lecture Series was just what the doctor ordered. The annual Series, graciously sponsored by Bob and Jill Williams, completed another successful run in March after drawing sold-out crowds through the season.

The lineup showcased an exciting speaker list of top scientists and explorers, including Dr. Diane Nelson, Professor Emerita, Dept. of Biological Sciences, East Tennessee State University, and Dr. Eugenie Clark, Founding Director, Mote Marine Laboratory; Capt. Alfred Scott McLaren, Senior Pilot of the Super Aviator submersible; Carlton Ward, Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition leader and photographer; Dr. Erinn Muller, Mote Postdoctoral Fellow; Dr. Dennis McGillicuddy, Senior Scientist in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Dr. John Reynolds, Director of the International Consortium for Marine Conservation and Manager of Mote’s Manatee Research Program.


Sea Lion Exhibit Wraps Up With Science-y Twist
The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory bid a fond farewell to the limited-time exhibit Sea Lions: On The Water’s Edge in April by allowing the visiting Patagonian sea lions to participate in new research designed to expand the scientific knowledge of their species.

The exhibit, which concluded May 1, allowed Mote visitors to get close to three Patagonian sea lions — a species rarely found in U.S. zoos and aquariums and the first-ever furry mammals featured at Mote.

The sea lions’ visit to Mote — a world-class marine research institution — provided a unique opportunity to learn more about them. Mote scientists, in collaboration with the University of California, Santa Cruz, monitored the sea lions’ heart rates with a special vest and recorded their respiration by asking the sea lions to swim beneath a dome.

Gathering this type of data improves knowledge of sea lion health in human care and supports rehabilitation of stranded sea lions. The measurements from healthy animals, known as baseline data, can later be compared with measurements from animals in rehabilitation to help reveal health problems and signs of improvement.

This research was presented at the annual conference of the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association, highlighting the important role of trained animals in behavioral research leading to refined knowledge for conservation and care.

Now, Mote scientists are using the same research techniques from the sea lion project to study the physiology of Mote’s resident manatees, Hugh and Buffett.

Sea Lions: On The Water’s Edge was the second successful limited-time exhibit at Mote.

Mote’s 27th Run is a Win for Sea Turtles
Nearly 1,000 runners and walkers hit the beach to help endangered and threatened sea turtles during Mote’s 27th Run for the Turtles on April 6 at Siesta Public Beach.

The Run, which includes a 5K sanctioned by the Manasota Track club and a 1-mile fun-run/walk, has provided major support for Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program — an internationally recognized program that has coordinated sea turtle conservation for more than three decades along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. Mote scientists and volunteers in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol monitor sea turtle nesting each day during nesting season, May through October.

AZA Grants Accreditation to The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) announced on April 10 that The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory was granted its third accreditation in a row by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.

To be accredited, The Aquarium at Mote underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

The Aquarium at Mote has successfully received accreditation each time it has been reviewed since its original accreditation in 2003. 

Mote Researchers Put the Deepwater Horizon Disaster Under the Microscope
Researchers in Mote’s Environmental Laboratory of Forensics have been studying the impacts of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill since it occurred. Through their ongoing efforts, they are working to uncover its possible lingering effects on marine ecosystems, and in the process, developing new lab tests that could benefit research on fish health for years to come.

Mote is carrying out this work as a partner in C-IMAGE (Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem), a 13-institution team based at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science that is tackling Deepwater-Horizon research from many angles. C-IMAGE, supported by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, which is funded through penalties levied on BP, is studying how the oil has moved, broken down, and potentially affected Gulf animals at all levels of the food web, from tiny plankton to fish and marine mammals.

This year, C-IMAGE scientists reported die offs of microscopic life forms called foraminifera on areas of the seafloor affected by the spill, and in 2011 reported greater numbers of skin lesions and other health issues in fish such as red snapper, tilefish, southern hake and yellowedge grouper in the spill zone off Louisiana’s coast.

Though it’s hard to link fish health problems directly to the Deepwater Horizon — which occurred in an area with chronic pollution — the findings to date seriously concern Gulf-Coast communities and drive marine scientists to continue learning more.


Mote Scientist Appointed as Aquaculture Expert for Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative

Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Kevan Main was appointed to serve on the Aquaculture Expert Working Group for the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative in April.

This group, funded by the German government, European Union and seafood distributors, is evaluating seafood certification and labeling programs for aquaculture and fisheries products to promote the supply of sustainable seafood for consumers. 
Main has pioneered sustainable aquaculture at Mote since 2001 as manager of the Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program at Mote Aquaculture Park in Sarasota, Fla.

This environmentally-sound fish farm and research laboratory is developing and using recirculating filtration systems to rear salt- and freshwater fish and to advance culture methods to farm these species for food and to restore wild populations. Mote’s sturgeon farm is rearing Siberian sturgeon for meat and caviar sold across the U.S.


New President Takes Helm of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
Dr. Michael P. Crosby officially assumed the leadership of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on May 16, 2013, following the nonprofit organization’s annual Board meeting. He is taking the role of President and CEO following the retirement of Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, whose new position will be President Emeritus as he continues to be an advocate and ambassador of the organization, assisting in promoting and developing support for Mote’s world-class research and education programs. Dr. Mahadevan led the organization for 27 years.

As new President and CEO, Dr. Crosby will oversee the Lab’s groundbreaking research programs that take place in Southwest Florida and around the world, along with the organization’s efforts to educate and inform the public and policy makers about the marine environment.


(From left to right) Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, President Emeritus, and outgoing Board Chair Bob Carter. New Board Chair Gene Beckstein and President Dr. Michael P. Crosby.
Sato-Umi Comes to Sarasota Bay: Japanese-led Project Sustaining Marine Environment Gains Support at Mote Forum
International scientists, fisheries representatives and nearly 100 members of the local community gathered on May 8 at Mote Marine Laboratory for a public forum focused on how communities around the world are making science-based conservation happen — and their discussion brought a new notion to town: “Sato-Umi.”

Sato-Umi — a concept that originated in Japan and is gaining ground around the world — is the harmony between human communities and the productivity and biodiversity of marine ecosystems. The idea offers major benefits for Sarasota Bay, from restoring depleted scallop populations to enhancing historic fisheries of Cortez, forum leaders said.

The forum was conducted as part of a global study of science and society led by Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) titled “Formation of Local Environmental Knowledge Systems for Creation and Sustainable Governance of New Commons.” The study examines how grassroots groups, researchers working in the same area, policymakers and others can blend traditional and scientific knowledge and techniques to restore, conserve and sustainably use natural resources. 

Mote Declared Cultural Organization of the Year by Sarasota Chamber
Mote Marine Laboratory was declared Cultural Organization of the Year on May 10 by The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce during the 23rd annual Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Small Business Awards, which drew 500 business and community leaders to celebrate small business and honor winners in seven categories.

Mote is an independent, nonprofit marine science institution dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans and to informal science education and outreach for all ages. This winning combination sets Mote apart from its peers worldwide and makes the Lab and its public outreach facility, The Aquarium, perfect Southwest Florida gems.


Mote’s Digital Learning Coordinator to Lead Statewide Marine Science Education Group
Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski, coordinator of Mote’s SeaTrek digital learning program, was declared President-Elect of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) in May.

FMSEA, Founded in 1968, is a professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to marine education in Florida. FMSEA is a regional chapter of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), an organization that brings together those interested in the study and enjoyment of the world of water, both fresh and salt.
Opalewski will be inaugurated as FMSEA President during the organization’s annual meeting in April 2014 at Panama City Beach. She will serve a one-year term.

As a marine science educator in Mote’s SeaTrek program, Gaylord-Opalewski shares the wonders of the oceans and the world-class science of Mote Marine Laboratory with students nationwide and internationally using videoconferencing programs and online video chats. 
Mote’s digital-learning programs have won multiple Pinnacle Awards from the nonprofit Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. The award honors videoconferencing programs rated highest by teachers.


Mote Receives Grant to Bring Electronic Monitoring of Fisheries to Gulf
Mote received a $150,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to establish the first center for electronic monitoring of commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico — a first step toward gathering more scientifically sound data to inform fisheries management Gulf-wide.

The grant, one of 15 awarded this year from NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund, is being matched by private donations of funding and in-kind support, for a total of $271,435 shared by Mote and project partners at the Ocean Conservancy, Archipelago Marine Research Ltd., Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance and East West Technical Services LLC.

Funds are allowing Mote and its partners to work with commercial vessels to document their fishing activity with new electronic monitoring systems, which include digital video cameras, onboard computers, GPS and other technology.

The new monitoring effort focuses on reef fisheries important to Gulf economies, particularly on improving information about bycatch — unintentional catch that may include protected, sensitive or young marine life not ready for harvest. Project partners hope to expand these efforts over the long-term to include electronic monitoring Gulf wide, with consistent data analysis based at Mote.

Update: Project partners have installed the EM Observe™ electronic monitoring system developed by Archipelago on two longline vessels within the Shareholders Alliance. Five additional vessels will be equipped in the future. Data and video footage gathered by these systems will be reviewed and verified by Mote scientists.


Mote Honored by The Patterson Foundation for EdExploreSRQ Program
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium was honored for embracing the community education program EdExploreSRQ with a $5,000 award from The Patterson Foundation presented during the event HIGH FIVE: Hands Up for Hands-On Learning, which drew 350 pioneers and supporters of EdExploreSRQ on May 10 to Riverview Highschool.

EdExploreSRQ is an initiative that provides students with valuable exposure to arts, science and culture through “explorations,” which include in-classroom and off-campus experiences that are offered by 36 partner organizations.

Mote received the “Pay it Forward Award” from The Patterson Foundation for its popular exploration about manatees — endangered marine mammals that are a major focus of research, conservation and education for the nonprofit Lab and its public outreach facility, The Aquarium at Mote. The award is designed to help organizations offer student explorations through EdExploreSRQ or to create new or enhanced explorations for the 2013-14 school year.


Angling for DNA
Four Florida anglers were recognized this year for their tarpon DNA-collecting prowess during the annual Florida Guides Association meeting in Tampa.

The four collected tarpon DNA samples as part of the ongoing Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Mote Marine Laboratory, in conjunction with anglers statewide. The Study uses DNA fingerprinting techniques as a way to track individual tarpon through capture events so that fishery managers can assess and better understand tarpon stocks and movement patterns. Through the program, which has been in place since 2005, volunteer tarpon anglers have submitted more than 16,500 of the nearly 18,000 samples inventoried in the study’s database. In 2012, anglers submitted 4,726 samples — exceeding the project’s annual goal of 4,000. The figures indicate that about one of every 100 tarpon genetically sampled is a recapture.

Anglers recognized were:

  • Grand Champion — John Mallory, of Merritt Island (975 DNA samples)
  • Gulf Coast Champion — Capt. Robert McCue, of Ellenton (216 samples)
  • Florida Keys Champion — Capt. Paul D’Antoni, of Key West (118 samples)
  • Atlantic Coast Champion  — Capt. Carl Ball, of Fort Lauderdale (94 samples)


Florida Takes Sustainable Seafood to 38th Annual NOAA Fish Fry in Washington D.C.
Homegrown seafood from Southwest Florida was featured during the 38th Annual NOAA Fish Fry in Washington D.C. This annual food-lovers event showcases sustainable seafood from various regions throughout the U.S. during an event that draws more than 1,200 guests, including scientists, government officials, congressional members and seafood enthusiasts.

The Florida showcase featured sustainable seafood produced by Mote Marine Laboratory on its 200-acre farm located in eastern Sarasota County, Fla. Mote partnered with the Chiles Restaurant Group (which includes the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants), Anna Maria Fish Company and Lola Wines during the event. In addition to serving Mote’s Farm-Raised Caviar and Siberian sturgeon, the group’s booth featured bottarga, a delicacy made from locally caught striped mullet, and wine varietals from Lola Wines. 

Mote Scientists and Booker High Students Study Coral Reef Threats
Six students from Booker High School conducted independent research on climate change and ocean acidification — major threats to coral reef ecosystems — through a science education program launched this summer in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory.

The week-long program at Mote’s Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key allowed the students to join scientists from around the globe at the Lab’s innovative testing facility focused on ocean acidification. This hands-on experience — supported by a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County —  focused on increasing the students’ science literacy and specific knowledge of climate change and ocean acidification — significant challenges for marine scientists and resource managers working to preserve coral reefs.


Manatees are Touchy-Feely to the Extreme, Reports New Mote Study
Manatees can feel water movements thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair — an ability that makes them one of the most touch-sensitive mammals on Earth — according to a study led by scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The study, published in a special issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Comparative Physiology A, is the first published research revealing how well manatees can feel water movement using their facial whiskers. Results show that manatees can detect tiny ripples better than any marine mammal studied to date, suggesting that touch may be vital to their survival in the wild.


Combat Wounded & Injured Veterans, SCUBAnauts Team Up to Help Mote Marine Laboratory Restore Life to Florida’s Reef
Florida’s coral reef got a boost in July when volunteers from the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and SCUBAnauts International St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs Chapters joined scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory at work in Mote’s coral reef nursery in the Florida Keys in a story that received national television coverage on The NBC Nightly News and The Today Show.

More than six years ago, Mote established an underwater coral nursery where scientists grow fragments of coral — particularly the threatened staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) — for replanting on decimated or damaged sections of reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

When the corals reach a suitable size, new coral fragments are snipped off, or propagated, to create new corals — similar to the way new plants are grown from cuttings of existing plants. In July, the youngsters and the veterans helped scientists hang these new coral fragments in the nursery and monitor coral fragments that were previously planted on coral reefs.

By the end of the two-day mission, the SCUBAnauts and veterans helped to produce some 2,000 coral fragments, bringing the number of staghorn corals growing in Mote’s nursery to about 10,000.


Mote Collaborative Study Reveals Migration of Earth’s Biggest Fish
The largest-ever scientific study of whale sharks — the world’s biggest fish — was published in the journal PLOS ONE this summer by Mote sicentists and collaborators from Mexico. The study reveals the sharks’ international journeys and their relationship to the largest whale shark feeding hotspot known to science.

The nine-year study shows that whale sharks found at a major feeding aggregation site near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula travel to many places throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the northwestern Caribbean Sea and the Straits of Florida. These findings highlight why the Mexican feeding site is a vital fueling station for whale sharks throughout the region and suggest that these wide-ranging fish need international protection. The study also documented the second-longest whale shark migration ever confirmed — a trail that may help researchers discover where the sharks give birth.


Two Great Whites Tagged on Cape Cod Expedition
Mote scientists aboard the M/V OCEARCH tagged two great white sharks during “Expedition Cape Cod.”

“Betsy” and “Katharine” were each fitted with multiple scientific tags by a team that included Dr. Nick Whitney and Dr. Robert Hueter of Mote Marine Laboratory’s nationally designated Center for Shark Research. Mote scientists are invited to participate in great white research expeditions led by the nonprofit organization OCEARCH, which helps leading scientists obtain groundbreaking data on the biology and health of sharks. These expedition advance the research programs of Mote, as well as the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and many other researchers and institutions. 

Mote Celebrates 10th Successful Year of NSF-Funded Intern Program
From conducting cancer research using sharks as biomedical models to hosting the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. have always been on the cutting edge of marine research. With more than 30 Ph.D.s on staff, the Lab is adept at keeping up with emerging fields of interest in the marine world.

In 2013, Mote celebrated its tenth successful year of hosting the National Science Foundation-funded program “Research Experiences for Undergraduates.” This program is designed to give undergraduate students hands-on experience in developing and implementing a research project that they create. The program’s overall goal is to increase the number of professionals working in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields nationwide. 

Mote Hosts International Fisheries Researcher
Mote Founding Director Dr. Eugenie Clark’s work was the start of decades of international collaborations that have taken Mote researchers to six continents and dozens of countries where we’ve been able to benefit from our colleagues’ experiences and share our own knowledge and expertise. These collaborations have also helped us bring that international flavor to our campuses when our international colleagues join us here in the states for research programs, meetings and conferences.

This fall, we welcomed Dr. Qian Ma from the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Science — Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute in Qingdao, China, to Mote Aquaculture Park in eastern Sarasota County as part of an ongoing Mote collaboration with the organization.

Dr. Ma, a molecular biologist, is working with Mote scientists, including Dr. Kevan Main, immediate past president of the World Aquaculture Society, and collaborators at Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute to uncover the genetic traits of pompano that affect the species’ growth. The work includes building a genetic database that will identify the relationship between breeders and progeny, which will be key to developing pompano as an aquaculture species in the U.S.

Mote Summer Camp Reaches Record Number of Students
Summer is so much more fun when you SEA things clearly — so found the record number of campers — 774 — who attended a Mote session this summer. Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium offers camps for the smallest fry (kids ages 2-5 and their favorite adults) to the tallest teleost (high schoolers). Registration for 2014 camps opens Feb. 3 for Mote Members and previous campers and Feb. 10 for non-members. Register online in February at
Sarasota Dolphin Researcher Nominated for Indianapolis Prize
Mote is proud to recognize Dr. Randy Wells as a nominee for the world’s top award for animal conservation. The Indianapolis Prize is a biennial award initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo that brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species.

Wells has studied Sarasota Bay’s dolphins since he came to Mote as a 16-year-old volunteer intern who helped program founder Blair Irvine begin a dolphin-tagging study in Sarasota Bay. Today, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population and is a collaboration between the Chicago Zoological Society and Mote.

During his career, Wells has studied marine mammals around the globe, has led or co-led more than 170 marine mammal research projects and has served as president of the international Society for Marine Mammalogy, chairman of the Atlantic Scientific Review Group, chairman of NOAA’s Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events and held numerous other science and conservation leadership roles.

Wells is among 39 conservation all-stars nominated, and he shares the nominee list alongside anthropologist Jane Goodall and ocean conservation leader Carl Safina.

Six finalists will be revealed in spring 2014 with the winner announced later in the year. The winner and five finalist nominees will be honored at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., on Sept. 27, 2014, in Indianapolis. The winner will receive $250,000 and five finalists will each receive $10,000.

Mote Marine Laboratory Announces New Major Gifts Officer
Mote was pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Vigne, major gifts officer. Vigne is a prominent development professional from the Sarasota-Manatee nonprofit community who will help raise funding support for the world-class marine research that is priority No. 1 in Mote’s 2020 Vision and Strategic Plan. The Plan serves as the blueprint guiding Mote research programs that are designed to meet the critical needs facing our oceans and positively impact society in this century and beyond.
2013 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Success
This year was the second-highest sea turtle nesting season along Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast in the three decades that Mote and its Sea Turtle Patrol team have been monitoring the beaches here. Not only was the number of loggerhead nests a near-record, but the number of green sea turtle nests more than doubled the local record, says Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program Manager, Kristen Mazzarella.

Mote has monitored sea turtle nesting for 32 years from Longboat through Venice — and it’s only through long-term monitoring programs like this that we can understand overall population trends for sea turtles.

The local trends are mirroring what’s happening statewide, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which collects data from hundreds of surveyors monitoring nesting on Florida’s beaches.

Additionally, Mote’s Hatchling Hospital also saw a record number of patients — putting to good use the 2012 donation of funds for a upgrades to our intake and care areas that included a special viewing window so that Aquarium visitors could watch as Mote’s expert animal care providers helped hatchlings become healthy enough to return to the wild. The donation was provided by the Kukanza family of Sarasota and Ohio.

During a typical nesting season, which occurs May through October on Florida’s west coast beaches, sea turtle hatchlings are brought to Mote during the peak hatching months of July through September. Most are released shortly after they’re checked out and determined to be in good health, according to Holly West, Mote Sea Turtle Care Coordinator. In 2013, Mote admitted 1,500 hatchling