Mote joins state leaders to highlight coral reefs during Super Bowl LIV

Mote Marine Laboratory’s President & CEO joined Florida’s Governor, state agency leaders and partners at all levels to raise awareness for coral reefs on Jan. 30 in Miami, where Mote’s traveling exhibit Sanctuary Reef was also stationed to educate crowds gathering for Super Bowl LIV.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced the new awareness campaign Florida’s Coral Reef, created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with partners including Mote, and dedicated to increasing recognition and environmental stewardship of Florida’s Coral Reef. The campaign’s website, FloridasCoralReef.org, shares information on the latest issues and restoration efforts. The Governor also announced “100 Yards of Hope,” a coral reef restoration project in conjunction with FORCE BLUE to plant 100 yards of coral while also honoring the NFL’s 100th season and America’s military veterans.

“Florida is proud to be the only state in the continental U.S. with a nearshore coral reef,” DeSantis said in the state news release. “That is why today I am excited to help kickoff of ‘100 Yards of Hope,’ a coral restoration project by the veterans of FORCE BLUE, and announce a new initiative to promote awareness and protection of Florida’s Coral Reef ecosystem. By protecting and restoring Florida’s coral reef, we are protecting a state treasure. Florida is not Florida without its coral reefs.”

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein described the new awareness campaign in the news release: “Our goal with this campaign is to show Floridians how important this reef system is to protect our coastal communities from extreme weather, shoreline erosion, and coastal flooding. We are eager to showcase the critical ongoing efforts to protect this one-of-a-kind Florida treasure.”

Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby emphasized the critical value of leadership and partnership for addressing the grand challenges affecting Florida’s reefs. “Florida’s coral reefs are facing a real threat of functional extinction that requires a strategic response bigger than any one institution or agency, and the energetic support of every resident and visitor to our state. Mote applauds the leadership of Governor DeSantis, DEP Secretary Valenstein and FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton in building a partnership of diverse organizations to both enhance public awareness and provide science-based responses to restore the sustainable vitality of the Florida coral reef tract.  We are pleased to be part of this collaborative partnership utilizing collective, cohesive voices will help explain real-time issues facing our coral reef tract with actionable ways to make a real difference for one of our nation’s treasures.”

Photo: DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby in Mote's Sanctuary Reef exhibit. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory.

Beyond participating in the campaign Florida’s Coral Reef, Mote scientists have been leading, and continue to expand, multiple efforts in coral reef research and science-based coral restoration:

  • Independent science, informed action: Mote is an independent, nonprofit marine science institution with a 65-year track record of international research excellence, including a quarter-century of focus on coral reefs and a major emphasis on addressing the stony coral tissue loss disease causing serious coral mortality on the Florida Reef Tract.
    Watch a video produced by OceanX spotlighting Mote scientists working to address this ecological emergency.

    Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3) on Summerland Key, Florida—which includes the Alfred Goldstein Institute for Climate Change Studies—is the southernmost marine laboratory in the continental U.S. IC2R3 supports the work of Mote and its hundreds of partners from around the world.
     
  • Science-based restoration: Mote has restored 76,522 coral fragments to wild reefs since 2008, and Mote-restored corals often show exceptional survival rates, with more than 90% of coral fragments reaching the key, one-year mark. In 2019, Mote’s team planted nearly 27,000 coral fragments onto damaged Florida reefs, the Lab’s highest annual count ever, exceeding the past two years’ counts combined.

    Mote scientists carry out every step essential for science-based reef restoration:
    Coral sexual reproduction; growing corals from microscopic larvae to adult colonies; producing more colonies through fragmenting corals asexually; testing coral genetic varieties for resilience to disease, climate change and related stressors; planting corals onto damaged reefs; monitoring restored corals to analyze survival and growth and develop even better restoration methods; conducting managed breeding with nursery-raised corals to produce new, genetically diverse offspring and start the cycle again.

    While thousands flocked to Miami for Super Bowl LIV, Mote restoration scientists were hard at work in Miami’s backyard. On Jan. 30, Mote’s team was busy outplanting over 500 elkhorn coral fragments in Biscayne National Park.
     
  • Educating people of all ages:
    Mote transported its Sanctuary Reef exhibit to Miami for Super Bowl LIVE, a week-long festival sponsored by the Super Bowl Host Committee at Bayfront Park.  Co-sponsored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the traveling exhibit utilized the Super Bowl platform to launch a multi-partner educational campaign to enhance public awareness and recognition of “Florida’s Coral Reef” and the science designed to help protect its future.

    “This collaborative branding campaign for our reef, now identified as ‘Florida’s Coral Reef,’ will help unify partner voices to inspire the public to learn more about our reef as a natural resource, take action to conserve and support science-based solutions to help restore our reef to keep it vibrant and viable for generations to come.  By partnering with the DEP to bring this exhibit to Miami during the Super Bowl festivities, we were able to amplify our public messages about Florida’s Coral Reef while also sharing the challenges and triumphs experienced each day by dedicated scientists like those at Mote.”

    Mote also educates the public about coral reefs through science-focused tours, education programs and citizen-science opportunities at IC2R3 (mote.org/getinvolvedkeys), and through coral reef-focused exhibits at Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, NOAA’s Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West and the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada.

    Mote and partners raise awareness and support for these vital ecosystems through Mote’s Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration, twice per year in the Florida Keys. Mote’s next Ocean Fest is March 28 in Key West.
     
  • Help drive reef conservation: If you're a Florida driver, you can help support Florida’s underwater treasure with the purchase of a Protect Our Reefs specialty license plate. Each plate sold provides a $25 donation to Mote to help fund coral reef research, restoration, education and conservation. Get a plate for your car, truck or trailer.

    Right-side photo, names from left to right: Zay Jones of the Las Vegas Raiders, Allison Delashmit and Stephannie Kettle of Mote, and Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers highlight Florida's Coral Reef ahead of Super Bowl LIV in Miami. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory.