Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is celebrating its 60th year as an independent, nonprofit research organization. Talking about their pioneering work on coral restoration, and their conservation, educational community outreach programs is Kaitlyn Fusco, PR Manager.

Please highlight the conservation work being done by Mote for projects like coral restoration and rehabilitating sick or injured marine animals.

Mote is based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County and the Florida Keys and a scientific team that conducts research on the oceans. This year, Mote added its 25th research program – the Coral Health & Disease Program, which focuses on threats to coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea”.

Florida has the only barrier coral reef along the continental U.S., which helps attract millions of visitors and contributes about $6.3 billion to Florida’s economy. Reefs cover less than one per cent of Earth’s seafloor but supporting roughly 25 per cent of marine life, including economically vital fisheries.

Staghorn coral planted by Mote in Florida Keys- Photo Joe Berg - Way Down Video

Staghorn coral from Mote lab’s coral nursery in Florida Keys- Photo Joe Berg/Way Down Video

Mote researchers have recently developed innovative science-based technology to restore Florida’s coral reefs. One of the most recent breakthroughs has been the development of a new coral “re-skinning” process that allows scientists to restore large areas of reef in just one to two years instead of hundreds of years it might take nature to rebuild a reef. The cutting-edge technology allows small fragments of brain, boulder and star coral to rapidly fuse back together to form new coral head over the dead skeleton.

In a peer-reviewed scientific paper published Oct. 21, 2015 on growing coral larger and faster, two Mote scientists, a scientist from the Division of Aquatic Resources in Hawaii and a scientist from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology learned that after 139 days, they were able to increase star coral in size by as much as 329 percent.

 

What is your best success story and the biggest challenge you’re facing right now with such projects?

At Mote Marine Laboratory, there are 25 different research programs and the Lab has achieved much over its 60-year history. We’ve launched fisheries stock enhancement initiatives for snook and scallops in Sarasota Bay, we’ve developed innovative science methods to be able to restore one thousand acres of coral reefs in the Florida Keys, we’ve help enhance ocean literacy in millions of visitors.

As an independent non-profit research institution, one of the challenges Mote faces is financial support to continue our groundbreaking research. This is one of the reasons why Mote launched its Oceans of Opportunity Campaign with a goal to raise $50 million.

To know more about the campaign, click here.

 

Tell us a bit about what makes Mote aquarium special.

Mote Aquarium made the Top 10 list of best U.S. Aquariums from TripAdvisor, which announced their 2015 Traveler’s Choice awards in August. One of the things that make Mote Aquarium special is our 1,600 unbelievably supportive volunteers who strive to educate, assist and inspire visitors.

Touch Tank at the Aquarium

Touch Tank at the Aquarium

The Aquarium is not only a fun place for families to visit, but it is also an educational public outreach arm of Mote Marine Laboratory, displaying more than 100 marine species with a focus on local marine life. The Aquarium opened in 1980 on City Island in Sarasota Bay. Visitors can see sharks, manatees, sea turtles, seahorses, rays, skates and invertebrates. Mote Aquarium also includes windows into Mote’s working laboratories.

 

What kind of experiences are available to visitors – be it educational or activity tours with your team?

Mote offers a number of different experiences for guests.

Eco-Boat Tours

Have a hands-on, educational and fun on-the-water experience — guided by experts. These interactive, eco-adventure tours are a fun extension of any visit to the Aquarium. Our cruises visit Sarasota and Roberts bays and are operated by a U.S. Coast Guard-certified boat captain, narrated by a biologist and staffed by Mote-trained volunteers. Guests have the potential to meet our marine natives — dolphins, manatees, osprey, eagles and other marine birds in their natural settings.

Kayaking with Mote

Visitors can join our trained educators on a variety of paddle trips to explore Sarasota Bay.

Kayaking with Mote

Kayaking with Mote

Mommy & Me

Children and their Moms learn together through marine-themed crafts, games, songs, stories and role play and then enjoy a special guided visit to an exhibit in The Aquarium.

Gills Club

A group that works to connect girls with female marine biologists in the field, share knowledge, and empower them to take leadership positions and inspire others with their own passion for sharks, headed by Mote shark researcher Dr. Heather Marshall.

Gills club at Mote

Gills club at Mote

Are there any volunteer opportunities for our readers to get involved with?

As a nonprofit, marine research institution, the success of Mote depends on the support of the community. Our Volunteer corps is 1,600-strong.

For more information, please visit mote.org/support/volunteer