Mote Marine Laboratory has announced it has raised more than $50 million in the Sarasota laboratory's first comprehensive fundraising campaign. President and CEO Michael Crosby said the money will be used for long-term sustainable projects to help preserve unique marine life.
"We are just so excited, but also extremely humbled that we've not only hit that $50 million target, but we've now exceeded it," he said. "It's historic. But it really doesn't signal an end. It is really something of a new beginning for Mote. And we are really entering into a new era."
Crosby said much of the money will be used to rebuild devastated coral reefs, which are being affected by ocean warming and acidification.
"We've actually developed some amazing new technologies that are really going to change the whole paradigm in how we're able to look and strategize in restoring coral reefs, not only in Florida, but around the world," he said.
Crosby just returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom survey coastlines along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba, which is famed for its reefs. Closer to home, Mote is building a new facility in the Florida Keys to help replant coral reefs.
Here's some information from Mote's news release:
Mote Marine Laboratory’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign has attained and is surpassing its $50-million goal for advancing the Lab’s critical mission and vision. The campaign continues and will officially end at Mote’s Oceanic Evening gala celebration on Oct. 29.
Oceans of Opportunity: The Campaign for Mote Marine Laboratory debuted during Mote’s 60th anniversary celebration in January 2015 at the Lab’s home base in Sarasota, Florida, and achieved its goal for donor commitments during late summer 2016. It has succeeded thanks to generous community members from multimillion-dollar supporters to passionate school children who want to make a difference.
Campaign funds are helping Mote expand its efforts to study and address the grand challenges facing the marine environment locally and worldwide. Impacts of the campaign are already visible — for instance, the ongoing construction of Mote’s new coral research and restoration facility in the Florida Keys, the Lab’s enhanced support for the next generation of Mote postdoctoral scientists and its education programs for underserved children in southwest Florida. Mote leaders say that these exciting developments are just the beginning.
“The successful completion of this historic campaign does not signal an end — rather, it heralds a new beginning for Mote, and we are overcome with gratitude,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote. “The momentum generated by our supporters will help propel this unique, independent institution into a new era by empowering our freedom to pursue innovative science — for coral reefs, fisheries, endangered species, critical marine ecosystems and advanced technology that improves the quality of our lives.”
At their facility on Summerland Key, Mote scientists have developed innovative methods to rapidly revive 50- to 100-year-old corals that died amid increasing environmental stress. In 2015, Mote published its peer-reviewed research on a novel micro-fragmentation and re-skinning technique that is ultimately geared toward reviving massive, reef-building brain, boulder, star and mounding corals in one to three years instead of the hundreds of years estimated for natural recovery.
“We have planted more than 20,000 coral fragments, including the reef-building species and branching staghorn corals, onto depleted reefs in the Florida Keys,” said Dr. David Vaughan, Executive Director of Mote’s Summerland Key lab. “Over the coming years, we want to work with partners in Florida and the Caribbean to increase this impact to hundreds of thousands and ultimately more than a million coral fragments. The new Summerland Key facility will be central to these efforts and the research that will support them.”
In June 2016, Mote launched a coral restoration project at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park with partners from Florida State Parks and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA’s) Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, with funding support from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. The partners planted 5,500 fragments of brain, mountainous star and great star corals during summer 2016 in park waters.
In addition, Mote has raised genetically diverse staghorn coral fragments in its extensive underwater nursery offshore of Summerland Key and replanted thousands of fragments onto decimated or damaged reefs throughout the lower Florida Keys.
Staghorn corals — a threatened species — grow four times faster in Mote’s nursery than in the wild, and Mote scientists have genetically identified fragments to select the hardiest strains for restoration projects in the warmer, acidified waters expected in our future oceans.