U.S. and Israeli Scientists Partner on International Ocean Initiatives

Mote Marine Laboratory, based in Sarasota, Fla., and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) in Eilat, Israel, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will lead to new research endeavors designed to understand the impacts that climate change will have on coral reefs and find ways to restore and protect reefs worldwide. This new research partnership will also support research on ocean acidification, the ecology of sharks and butterflyfish, marine biomedicine and many other key subjects shared by these two world-class marine science organizations.

“Our long history of working with Israeli scientists is bringing about significant benefits for our oceans and for marine science, and these team efforts stand ready to achieve even greater results because of this new agreement,” said Mote President and CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby.

In the 1950s, before Mote founder Dr. Eugenie Clark earned world renown as the “Shark Lady,” she studied fishes in the Red Sea — where vibrant coral reefs entice divers from around the world and where, today, Mote science is unfolding in exciting new ways.

Mote’s President and CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, has worked closely with top Israeli researchers since 1994. He led U.S., Israeli and Jordanian partners in the Red Sea Marine Peace Park Cooperative Research, Monitoring and Management Program — an effort to protect coral reefs that support thousands of species in the Gulf of Aqaba. Dr. Crosby is also a former chairman of the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation Board of Governors and has served on the Board since he was appointed by the U.S. State Department in 2002.

On May 2, Dr. Crosby and Dr. Amatzia Genin, Director of the IUI, signed the agreement at the IUI in Eilat. “Signing the MOU with Mote is a landmark event in the history of the IUI, as it combines past, present and future: the past collaboration that has prevailed since the establishment of our laboratory — in which Dr. Eugenie Clark had a major role — through the more recent Peace Park project led by Dr. Michael Crosby, which bridged political and scientific boundaries across the Gulf of Aqaba, continuing with the present Mote-IUI collaboration in studies of ocean acidification effects on corals, paving the road to a bright future of continued collaboration between Mote and IUI in studying the future of coral reefs across the oceans.”

The signing ceremony took place during a historic trip back to the Red Sea by Mote founder Dr. Clark, as she celebrated her 92nd birthday. During the trip, Dr. Clark once again had the opportunity to dive the Red Sea and to visit with scientists and residents that she’s known since her early years as a scientist, including Dr. Avi Baranes, Director Emeritus of the IUI who was her graduate student during her studies in the 1950s (and who was also Dr. Crosby’s colleague in the Red Sea Marine Peace Park initiative) and Rachel Gordin, who was Dr. Clark’s student and babysat her children during her work in Israel.

“This was a wonderful birthday celebration,” Dr. Clark said. “Not only did I have the opportunity to reconnect with people I’ve known for so many years, but I also had the opportunity to witness the signing of the agreement between IUI and Mote. I believe this will strengthen Mote’s bonds with our Israeli colleagues and offer a strong platform for exciting new studies.”

This agreement builds upon the Mote-Israel Cooperative Marine Research Program, which supports research initiatives benefitting the environments of both nations. It is also a key component of the developing Mote Center for International Marine Science Diplomacy, which will include Mote multi-national partnerships around the world. As an independent, nonprofit organization, Mote is uniquely poised to create this Center as a catalyst for improving international relations through cooperative marine science action plans that address core environmental issues that cut across political boundaries.

Mote and IUI are already celebrating some recent successes, including co-hosting a groundbreaking international workshop on ocean acidification, climate change and corals in December. During the workshop, researchers from six nations exchanged knowledge and partnered for a marathon of intensive, novel studies.

“Israel, Jordan and the Red Sea are not only some of the most significant places in human history — they are a modern hub of marine research, conservation and science-based diplomacy,” Dr. Crosby said. “This agreement will be an exciting conduit for collaborations that will serve as a new model for marine science diplomacy worldwide.”

About Mote Marine Laboratory

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote focuses on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Research programs include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment. Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at www.mote.org.

About Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences of Eilat

The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences of Eilat (IUI) is Israel's hub of research and education in all fields of marine science (http://www.iui-eilat.ac.il). The institute hosts six resident faculty and some 50 non-resident researchers from all the universities and research institutes in the country and the institute provides research facilities to many international researchers. Due to the unique oceanographic setting of the Gulf of Aqaba and the exceptional location of the IUI, where modern sea-going, diving and laboratory facilities are located meters from  flourishing coral reefs and a couple of kilometers away from 700 m deep water column, research at the IUI typically involves field work. A diverse teaching curriculum provides graduate-level courses in marine biology, physics, chemistry and ecology.