Environmental Laboratory for Forensics
Contaminant detection of toxic substances.
The Sharks and Rays Conservation Research Program is dedicated to studying the biology, ecology and conservation of sharks and their relatives, the skates and rays. These fishes comprise about 1,000 species worldwide, many of which today are threatened by overfishing and environmental impacts.
Through laboratory and field research, scientists study the abundance and movement patterns, population dynamics, behavior and health, and fisheries biology of sharks and rays, and promote science-based conservation of depleted shark populations.
The Program has been a leader in advancing the causes of shark conservation worldwide since 1988, and today emphasizes international initiatives related to shark conservation, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean with scientific colleagues and policy makers from the U.S., Mexico and Cuba.
In 2009, Mote researchers initiated a new conservation research project on the life history, reproduction, and population status of the spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari), a protected species in Florida but a vulnerable species in the rest of its range. It is illegal to fish for or kill this beautiful and charismatic ray in Florida waters but they are not protected under federal laws and international protections are limited as well. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization that establishes the conservation status of species worldwide, lists them as near-threatened with a decreasing population trend.
Spotted eagle rays are harvested in Mexico and Cuba, mostly as food, and this fishing pressure, combined with their extremely low reproductive rate, make these rays a vulnerable species. But there is not enough information to determine how much danger they are in. The distribution, migration, feeding habits, growth rates and reproductive biology of spotted eagle rays are poorly defined.
The project began as a collaboration with the National Aquarium in Baltimore but since has expanded into a full research program supported by several funding sources, including the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Georgia Aquarium. Mote biologists have sampled, tagged and released hundreds of spotted eagle rays off the Southwest Florida coast to gain a better understanding of their population structure and migratory habits in the Gulf of Mexico. We have noted a declining trend in numbers of rays observed in aerial and boat surveys has been seen, raising concerns about this species’ status. The program is also working in Mexico and Cuba to understand fisheries pressure in those countries and collect genetic samples for population analysis for the region.
The Spotted Eagle Ray Project goals are two-fold:
Contaminant detection of toxic substances.
Studying habitats and trends in turtle nesting to conserve Sea Turtles.
Basic and applied research on the health and immune systems of marine vertebrates
The Coral Reef Ecology & Microbiology Program studies microorganisms and their role in the marine environment.
Studying sharks, skates and stingrays as laboratory animal models for basic & applied research
Long term study of dolphin populations in Sarasota Bay.
Understanding processes and environmental factors that influence coral reef health.
Seeking to develop systems and techniques to grow coral and other reef species.
Coral diseases are one of the greatest threats to reefs worldwide.
Using technology to further study & management of our local coastal environment.
Investigating the source, fact & effects of toxins in the environment
The Sharks and Rays Conservation Research Program is dedicated to studying the biology, ecology and conservation of sharks, skates and rays.
Rehabilitation hospital to provide provide state-of-the-art critical care & chronic care for stranded sea turtles and dolphins.
Bottom-dwelling organism response to environmental disturbance.
The Stranding Investigations Program (SIP) provides 24-hour response to sick, injured and deceased marine mammals & sea turtles.
Study of the Ocean's Phytoplankton Community
Study responses of ecologically important species to projected levels of ocean acidification.
Studying the impacts of nutrients and physical parameters in riverine, estuarine and coastal environments.
Developing strategies for fishery stocking & restoring endangered species
Studying manatee behavioral ecology, distribution, habitat use, genetics, and population status in Florida.
Developing technologies to produce fish & invertebrates to meet growing demand for seafood & fishing stocks.
Study of how fish interact with their habitats & how disturbances influence these interactions.
Investigating how marine & freshwater chemicals impact public health