Dean Cutshall, now 73 years old, first put his feet forward for turtle research and conservation 30 years ago on the beautiful sand of Siesta Key for Mote Marine Laboratory’s Run for the Turtles.

Cutshall just happened to be in Sarasota on vacation from his hometown in Fort Wayne, Ind. during the first Run for the Turtles, a family-friendly run to raise awareness and funds for Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, which coordinates conservation of endangered sea turtles along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to stay in shape while on vacation, but what I didn’t realize then is this run would come to mean more to me that I ever thought it would,” Cutshall said.

During the inaugural Run for the Turtles in 1986, Cutshall became enthralled with marine life.

“The first run was just delightful,” Cutshall said. “I had such a great time. It was right on the beach, early in the morning, and I loved it so much, I made a pact with myself to come to this run every year and it became my excuse to come to Florida.”

Cutshall began visiting Siesta Key in 1955, the same year Mote was founded. Through a friend who worked for Mote, he was introduced to Dr. Eugenie Clark – the famous “Shark Lady” who founded Mote and passed away in early 2015 – and he wanted to know how he could stay connected to the Lab.

The first run sparked Cutshall’s interest in sea turtles and marine life in general. He began to learn more about Mote as a research laboratory and became a supporter of the lab, especially Mote’s turtle programs.  This year, he will wear bib number 30 in honor of the run’s 30th anniversary.

“Even today, it is a marvelous experience running on the beach – the smells, the view – while raising awareness for Mote’s sea turtle program at the same time. There is nothing better,” Cutshall said.

Mote scientists also see the Run for Turtles as a chance to support the Lab. Dr. Emily Hall, Ocean Acidification Program Manager, has participated in Run for the Turtles in the past and is excited to experience the 30th anniversary of the run.

“As a fellow scientist, I like to support all the research we do at Mote, because even though we’re all studying different things, we all have the same goal of conducting research today to better the ocean,” Hall said.

Run participants and visitors can learn from Mote staff and volunteers about Florida’s sea turtles and how to protect them. At the same time, participants will be helping to fund the nonprofit Lab’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program and Sea Turtle Patrol, which monitors local sea turtle nesting each day during nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31.

“Run for the Turtles is the longest-standing fundraiser for Mote and it has raised thousands of dollars in the past, which allows Mote to continue monitoring 34 miles of beaches,” said Paula Clark, Race Coordinator for Run for the Turtles. “The Run for the Turtles kicks off sea turtle nesting season, which begins May 1. So, not only is this a fun run on the beach, but we aim to educate the public about how we can help make this another successful year for sea turtles nesting on our beaches.”

About Mote’s 30th Annual Run for the Turtles

The run will take place on Siesta Key Beach on April 2, 2016 and will kick off with on-site registration at 6:30 a.m. at the gazebo south of the pavilion on Siesta Public Beach. The 1-Mile Fun Run or Walk will start at 7:30 a.m. and the 5K Manasota Track Club-Sanctioned Run will start at 8 a.m. People of all ages can register, and young people can make an especially big difference.

Mote’s partnership with Positive Tracks empowers young people to help sea turtles by raising funds and awareness through Run For The Turtles and fundraising leading up to the event.

Funds raised by Mote supporters ages 23 and younger during and surrounding the Run will be matched up to $40,000 in 2016. This match is possible thanks to Positive Tracks, a national, youth-centric nonprofit, that has partnered with Mote for the second year to help young people get active and give back. Local funding partner Gulf Coast Community Foundation is providing a $25,000 grant, empowering Positive Tracks to enhance its efforts in southwest Florida and amplify its impact for Mote.

To get involved, please contact Mote’s Positive Tracks Coordinator, Chris Pfahler at

To make a gift supporting Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, please contact Kate Knepper at: 941-388-4441, ext. 393 or

Dean Cutshall leans on the handrail of Mote's large, outdoor sea turtle tank. He gazes down at Shelly, an adult 220 pound Green Sea turtle as she lifts her head up for a breath.
Dean Cutshall admires Shelley, one of Moste’s resident sea turtles. Credit: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory.