Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is excited to announce the opening of a new offsite exhibit, Coral Reef Exploration, at the Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada. This permanent exhibit features three aquariums, interpretative displays and interactive kiosks, focusing on providing both a beautiful and educational view of the unique coral reef ecosystem of the Florida Keys and the challenges it faces.

On November 30, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation, which operates the Discovery Center, hosted an unveiling of the new exhibit to the delight of invited guests. On December 1, the exhibit opened to the public.

The largest of the aquariums at Coral Reef Exploration is a 1,250-gallon tank showcasing species that make their home around the Florida Keys coral reefs, including angel fish, butterfly fish, tangs and wrasse. Guests to the Discovery Center can get up close and personal with invasive lionfish in a 280-gallon aquarium, and check out live coral, crustaceans and reef fish living in a second 280-gallon aquarium.

The result of an exciting partnership between Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation, these two not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations worked to make this exhibit a reality.

“Much of the culture, economy and physical existence of the Florida Keys are intimately linked to coral reefs that are unfortunately facing threats of extinction. Mote is pleased to partner with the Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation to present this new exhibit that will help share the history and importance of ensuring the long-term vitality of the Keys through innovative coral research and restoration that Mote is leading,” said Dr. Michael Crosby, President and CEO of Mote. “The Florida Keys coral reefs are a national and international treasure, and Mote looks forward to working closely with the Discovery Center as we expand our local community outreach and partnerships in the Keys.”

Located in the heart of Islamorada, this collaborative exhibit is an exciting milestone for achieving Mote’s vision to align with impactful partners that seek to provide meaningful vehicles for public outreach and education. Mote’s coral reef research and restoration efforts in the Florida Keys have long-resided in the Lower Keys and Key West. This new exhibit, and the partnership with the Foundation, nurtures an even greater understanding of the central role of coral reefs and related marine ecosystem in the rich history and culture of the Florida Keys.

“The creation of this extensive exhibit for our community is a gamechanger for the Keys History & Discovery Center,” said Foundation President Rich Russell. “Our goals within our mission ‘to support a world-class history and discovery center’ have reached new heights with this permanent addition.”

This $250,000 project was funded in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council and through in-kind contributions from Mote, including annual maintenance and upkeep. An additional $171,000 was raised through a capital campaign to cover the costs of the project.

About Mote Marine Laboratory:

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has been an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization since it was created in 1955. Mote has five campuses stretching from Sarasota Bay to the Florida Keys, and Mote scientists conduct research on the oceans surrounding all seven of the Earth’s continents in more than 20 diverse research programs. Mote’s Summerland Key campus, The Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3), is dedicated to coral reef research, restoration and understanding the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on marine organisms — especially corals.

About Keys History & Discovery Center:

Keys History & Discovery Center is a world-class museum that preserves and shares the incredible history of our Upper Keys community and explores the unique ecology of the region. In addition to permanent exhibits on subjects such as Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railway, Legends of the Line, and First People, the Discovery Center offers a lecture series, educating the public through presentations from a variety of expert speakers. The museum’s second floor features a state-of-the-art theater showing documentaries on topics like the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Indian Key, as well as traveling exhibits, and the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library. The center, on the property of the Islander Resort, is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

About Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation:

Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation formed in 2013 to develop and operate Keys History & Discovery Center. The not-for-profit organization’s board of directors is comprised of community-minded volunteers with a passion for the mission of preserving and sharing the unique history and environment of the Florida Keys, particularly that of the Upper Keys. More information can be found at or by calling 305-922-2237.