Mote surpasses $50-million campaign goal


Top: George Mazzarantani, Director of the Gardener Foundation (leadership campaign supporter), Barney and Carol Barnett, Sarasota Philanthropists (leadership campaign supporters), Ed Chiles, Owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group, and Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President and CEO of Mote Marine Lab, celebrate Mote's 60th Anniversary and the public debut of the Oceans of Opportunity campaign on Jan. 22, 2015.
Middle: Dr. David Vaughan, senior scientist at Mote (left), restores reef-building coral fragments (right) in the Florida Keys, where Mote plans to open its new research and restoration facility in 2017 with campaign support.
Bottom: Elaina Todd, Community Engagement Coordinator for Mote, works with Treyvon Stanford, student from Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, in an education program enhanced by community giving.
Credit all: Mote Marine Laboratory


Mote Marine Laboratory’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign has attained and is surpassing its $50-million goal for advancing the Lab’s critical mission and vision. The campaign continues and will officially end at Mote’s Oceanic Evening gala celebration on Oct. 29.
Oceans of Opportunity: The Campaign for Mote Marine Laboratory debuted during Mote’s 60th anniversary celebration in January 2015 at the Lab’s home base in Sarasota, Florida, and achieved its goal for donor commitments during late summer 2016. It has succeeded thanks to generous community members from multimillion-dollar supporters to passionate school children who want to make a difference.
Campaign funds are helping Mote expand its efforts to study and address the grand challenges facing the marine environment locally and worldwide. Impacts of the campaign are already visible — for instance, the ongoing construction of Mote’s new coral research and restoration facility in the Florida Keys, the Lab’s enhanced support for the next generation of Mote postdoctoral scientists and its education programs for underserved children in southwest Florida. Mote leaders say that these exciting developments are just the beginning.

  • Celebrate the success of the Oceans of Opportunity campaign and learn what the future holds for Mote during the campaign’s culminating event, Mote’s annual black-tie Oceanic Evening, on Oct. 29 at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. For details, tickets and sponsorship information, visit:

“The successful completion of this historic campaign does not signal an end — rather, it heralds a new beginning for Mote, and we are overcome with gratitude,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote. “The momentum generated by our supporters will help propel this unique, independent institution into a new era by empowering our freedom to pursue innovative science — for coral reefs, fisheries, endangered species, critical marine ecosystems and advanced technology that improves the quality of our lives.”
Oceans of Opportunity is helping Mote to increase its impact now, while also growing our endowment for the future,” said G. Lowe Morrison, Chair of Mote’s Board of Trustees. “Our campaign supporters include many new members of our Legacy Society, who have included Mote in their estate plans. They are helping to safeguard the heart of Mote: its independence. As one of the few marine labs not governed by any agency or university, we are free to innovate and adapt to emerging needs, to do unbiased research where and how it matters most.”

During the campaign, more than 60 new members joined Mote’s Legacy Society. Of those, nearly 25 pledged $100,000 or more. This type of deferred support is increasingly important for the long-term sustainability of the organization and will continue to be a strong emphasis even after the campaign, particularly in growing Mote’s endowment.
The guiding star for Mote’s future is the 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan. The Plan focuses on: significantly increasing Mote’s ability to conduct world-class marine research, in support of conservation and sustainable use; ensuring the long-term prosperity of Mote’s research enterprise through focused recruitment of next-generation scientists and career-nurturing programs; and continuing to enhance Mote’s public service to its communities.
Below are specific outcomes of Oceans of Opportunity, followed by examples of how they help.

Oceans of Opportunity outcomes

Bob Essner, Chair of the Oceans of Opportunity campaign, speaks to guests at Mote's 60th Anniversary Celebration, which launched the campaign in January 2015. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory.


“This campaign has been remarkably successful for Mote, not just in terms of financial support but also for awakening our community’s understanding of Mote’s diverse programs and important impacts,” said Bob Essner, Chair of Oceans of Opportunity and Vice Chair of Mote’s Board of Trustees. “We're impressed with the number of new supporters who have gotten involved quickly and passionately. I’m extremely proud to have served as Campaign Chair, and I’m very grateful for the generosity of the community."
During the campaign, Mote’s Leadership Circle members made 11 gifts of $1 million or more. This special group comprises community members who understand and wish to address the urgent challenges facing the oceans. Members include five anonymous supporters and:

  • Carol and Barney Barnett
  • Rick and Nancy Moskovitz Foundation
  • Elizabeth Moore
  • James D. and Pati Ericson
  • Robert and Anne Essner
  • Maurice and Carolyn Cunniffe

All told, the campaign surpassed its $50-million goal thanks to 23,000 supporters, including more than 12,000 new supporters. Remarkably, more than 80 percent of contributions came from private individuals and families. Supporters hailed from every U.S. state, several U.S. territories and other nations.
All ages participated, including young philanthropic leaders in the making. For instance, 13-year-old Lexi Mariash and her company, Turtle Inc., raised $3,449 for Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program through a 2016 mini-golf tournament. A generous match by the nonprofit Positive Tracks has doubled that success to $6,898.
In addition, the “Mote family” demonstrated its passion and dedication: 100 percent of Mote’s Board of Trustees and a strong contingent of Mote staff and volunteers supported the Lab through Oceans of Opportunity.

The community’s generosity has been overwhelming, and it shows that this is no time to slow down. The momentum of the campaign will allow for exciting impacts in the future, and this success is just the start.

Oceans of Opportunity impacts

Building momentum in the Keys


Top: On Feb. 18, donors for Mote’s planned facility on Summerland Key, Florida, celebrated the demolition of old buildings there with Mote. From left: Leadership Donors Nancy and Rick Moskovitz, Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby, and Leadership Donor Elizabeth Moore.
Bottom: Dr. David Vaughan, Executive Director of Mote’s Florida Keys facility, and Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote, swing sledge hammers at an old building on Mote’s Summerland Key property on Feb. 18 (left photo), kicking off demolition ahead of construction of a new facility (digital rendering on right).
Credit all: Mote Marine Laboratory


Oceans of Opportunity is funding construction of Mote’s new facility in the Florida Keys, which is dedicated to addressing the devastating declines in the ocean’s “rainforests,” coral reefs.
At their facility on Summerland Key, Mote scientists have developed innovative methods to rapidly revive 50- to 100-year-old corals that died amid increasing environmental stress. In 2015, Mote published its peer-reviewed research on a novel micro-fragmentation and re-skinning technique that is ultimately geared toward reviving massive, reef-building brain, boulder, star and mounding corals in one to three years instead of the hundreds of years estimated for natural recovery.
“We have planted more than 20,000 coral fragments, including the reef-building species and branching staghorn corals, onto depleted reefs in the Florida Keys,” said Dr. David Vaughan, Executive Director of Mote’s Summerland Key lab. “Over the coming years, we want to work with partners in Florida and the Caribbean to increase this impact to hundreds of thousands and ultimately more than a million coral fragments. The new Summerland Key facility will be central to these efforts and the research that will support them.”

In June 2016, Mote launched a coral restoration project at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park with partners from Florida State Parks and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA’s) Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, with funding support from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. The partners planted 5,500 fragments of brain, mountainous star and great star corals during summer 2016 in park waters.

In addition, Mote has raised genetically diverse staghorn coral fragments in its extensive underwater nursery offshore of Summerland Key and replanted thousands of fragments onto decimated or damaged reefs throughout the lower Florida Keys.
Staghorn corals — a threatened species — grow four times faster in Mote’s nursery  than in the wild, and Mote scientists have genetically identified fragments to select the hardiest strains for restoration projects in the warmer, acidified waters expected in our future oceans.

On July 20, 2015, Mote Marine Laboratory joined forces with members of the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC) and SCUBAnauts International in an underwater mission to restore Florida’s reef. In all, more than 50 divers planted some 250 fragments of staghorn coral in Mote’s special restoration site near Looe Key. Credit: Joe Berg/Way Down Video

The future of these programs looks bright: Mote is currently building its new, expanded, LEED-certified research facility on Summerland Key, thanks to the critical support of Oceans of Opportunity.  
Two old residential buildings were demolished starting on Feb. 18. Since then, all 178 foundation piles for the new facility have been drilled, all pile caps installed, the nearby seawall extended and progress made with underground plumbing and electric work. The most visible signs of progress are expected over the next few months. Steps will include the delivery of a large crane, multiple deliveries of precast concrete panels and the start of vertical construction. Please check Mote’s live web camera at Summerland Key over the next few months.

This building is supported entirely by philanthropy – particularly that of its founding donor, the Gardener Foundation, and several significant supporters: the Rick and Nancy Moskovitz Foundation, Elizabeth Moore, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and others. The building’s construction is one of the most visible signs of the campaign’s success. It is on track to open in early 2017.

Forward-thinking support for fisheries

A juvenile snook, one of the important species of sport fish studied by Mote scientists with help from community giving. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory


When the campaign’s lead donors, Carol and Barney Barnett, chose to support Mote’s Fisheries Conservation and Enhancement Initiative, they were championing the future of Florida’s sport fisheries and the next-generation scientists who study them.
“With help from our campaign supporters, we are advancing some of Mote’s longtime goals in fisheries research and getting new projects off the ground,” said Dr. Ryan Schloesser, who joined Mote in 2015 received a Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, which provides salary support for scientists doing exemplary work early in their careers. “We are developing and testing responsible methods to enhance and restore depleted snook populations, while advancing knowledge about wild stocks of these important sport fish.”
Mote scientists raise snook in their land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems, fit them with tags similar to microchips for pets, and release them into the wild to study how they use different habitats and how to improve their survival. The researchers place special antenna arrays on shore to detect any tagged snook within range.
In June 2016, Schloesser brought his latest research questions to Phillippi Creek — an estuarine tidal creek system that drains approximately 60 square miles in the Sarasota Bay Watershed. He aims to document which habitat types juvenile snook prefer along the creek, which has 7 miles of shoreline including parks, businesses and residences. In fall 2016, Mote scientists will release hatchery-raised, common snook into the creek, documenting their preference for natural, human-affected or mixed habitat. 
“Our results will help reveal how well the creek supports native fishes and how resource managers might enhance its benefits,” Schloesser said.
In other work, Schloesser will assess the condition and health of juvenile snook, with the goal of comparing hatchery-reared and wild juveniles. He will also examine otoliths, structures in fish ears, between hatchery and wild juvenile snook, checking for indicators of possible life-history differences in traits such as growth or habitat use.

Nurturing innovators

Top: Dr. Carl Luer and Dr. Cathy Walsh are Mote senior scientists known for studying cancer-fighting compounds from the immune systems of sharks. Luer received Mote’s 2015 Eminent Scholar award, which provides partial salary support thanks to philanthropic giving. He is one of several Mote scientists whose work is enhanced by community giving. 
Bottom: Mote scientists are studying cancer-fighting compounds from the immune system of bonnethead sharks. Credit both: Mote Marine Laboratory


Oceans of Opportunity is helping Mote nurture the careers of more Ph.D. scientists through the Lab’s competitive Eminent Scholar award, which provides partial salary support to a Mote staff member for three years.
Dr. Carl Luer, who manages Mote’s Marine Biomedical Research Program, received the Eminent Scholar award in 2015 and is one of several Mote scientists whose work is enhanced by community giving.

“In a nonprofit setting, we work hard to secure funding for high-quality, rigorous research over the long term,” Luer said. “Philanthropic giving helps offset some of that challenge for a number of our research staff. With Oceans of Opportunity and continued community support for scholarly awards to our staff, we’re seeing tangible progress toward the goals in our Strategic Plan to increase Mote’s impact. That’s exciting.”

Luer focuses on understanding the immune systems of sharks, skates and rays, especially how their healing and disease resistance properties may apply to human health. Luer and Dr. Cathy Walsh have demonstrated that shark-derived substances can fight multiple cancer cell lines in the lab, and more recently Luer and colleagues have been studying marine sources of antibiotics. Mote is working to forge research and commercial partnerships focused on biopharmaceuticals to bring its innovative research to new levels and ultimately seek new therapies for challenging diseases.

Giving back through education

Treyvon Stanford, Eugene Bright, Amira Bryant, Samarria Rainey, and Alaija Pitts, from Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, take part in a Mote Marine Laboratory education program enhanced by community giving.
Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory


With Oceans of Opportunity helping to secure Mote’s future, Mote is working to educate and engage the ocean’s future stewards: today’s children. Mote’s 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan goals include connecting youths with the environment in fun, meaningful ways — especially children who may not otherwise experience the high-quality and hands-on marine science education that Mote provides.
To instill ocean literacy in more youths, Mote recently welcomed Elaina Todd, Community Engagement Coordinator, and Michelle Marinangel, Marine Science Educator.
They and their fellow Mote educators initiated a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) partnership with the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex. The partnership started with bi-monthly outreach to the Complex’s after-school teen leadership program from January to May 2015, followed by two-week outreach sessions that summer. It grew to include monthly after-school programs starting in February 2016, with two-week outreach programs again that summer.
Each after-school program and summer session shared Mote’s research through hands-on activities, and camp sessions included a field trip to Mote Aquarium for kindergarten through eighth grade students.
Thus far, the Robert L. Taylor partnership has enriched the marine-science education of 1,200 participants free of charge, with help from Oceans of Opportunity.
The campaign  has also enhanced Mote’s education programs with Girls, Inc.; Just for Girls; Pace Center for Girls; Boys & Girls Club, Sarasota; Sarasota YMCA; Manatee YMCA; Triad Alternative School; Easter Seals; Laurel Civic Center; Salvation Army Family Impact Program; and Harvest House Centers.
“Through these partnerships, we get a chance to reach these kids on their level, ignite a passion for science and conservation and inspire them to action,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Elaina Todd. “Through the support of the campaign, we are able to develop these interactive programs for members of our community who might never have the opportunity otherwise. We hope these young minds will become the scientists, environmental stewards and community leaders of the future.”

Oceanic Evening: Just the beginning

Oceans of Opportunity will conclude with a special Oceanic Evening celebration, Mote’s annual black-tie gala, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive in Sarasota.
There, Mote will honor leadership donors, celebrate the campaign’s success and share updates about the campaign’s outcomes and the Lab’s future — emphasizing that the current success is just the beginning.

For event details, visit For sponsorships, contact Kate Knepper at For ticket information, contact Sofie Wachtmeister at
“This campaign is a power wave into our future,” said Mote President & CEO, Dr. Crosby. “It sets a strong foundation upon which we will build for the future, achieve our 2020 Vision and ensure that Mote’s impact will grow for decades to come. For everyone who has helped, the sincere gratitude of our entire Mote family is beyond simple words.”