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Newsday@Mote: 3-28-17

Saturday interview op:
Run for the Turtles

  • What: Mote Marine Laboratory's 31st-annual Run for the Turtles is a 5K and 1-mile race benefiting Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. As Mote's longest-standing fundraiser, it provides tremendous support for Mote's efforts to monitor, study and protect endangered and threatened sea turtles on nesting beaches from Longboat Key through Venice.
  • When and where: The Run takes place Saturday morning, April 1 on Siesta Beach, 948 Beach Road, Sarasota. Head toward the gazebo south of the pavilion.
    • 7:30 a.m.: 1-mile race starts.
    • 8 a.m.: 5K starts.
    • 8:15 a.m.: Kristen Mazzarella of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program will be available for interviews near registration tables along the sidewalk.
    • Awards ceremony takes place after 5K is complete.
  • RSVP: Media should RSVP to Hayley Rutger at or 941-374-0081 (cell). For assistance at the event, call Hayley's cell.
  • More event details:

Mote scientist to study how susceptible coral immune systems are to disease

Left: Boulder star coral, one of seven species involved in the study. Right: Mountainous star coral, one of seven coral species involved in the study. Below: The scientists who will conduct the study. Left to right: Marilyn Brandt (University of theVirgin Islands), Laura Mydlarz (University of Texas), Erinn Muller (Mote Marine Laboratory). Credit group shot to Laura Mydlarz. Credit coral photos to Mote Marine Laboratory.
Dr. Erinn Muller, Staff Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) award for two-years of research aimed at better predicting how corals react to disease exposure and how that will influence the coral community of the future.
The study is based on immune response and disease resistance and will quantify how susceptible coral species are to disease by examining their immunity through a series of novel experiments and approaches.
“Coral disease is one of the greatest threats to reefs around the world, causing catastrophic losses when outbreaks occur,” Muller said. “We need to understand more about how corals react to these diseases so we can help them bounce back and survive these changing conditions.”
The EAGER award supports exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. It enables the future of new approaches in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning and innovation.
This $220,331 grant will allow Muller and two other scientists, Laura Mydlarz (University Texas) and Marilyn Brandt (University of Virgin Islands), to study seven coral species from the Caribbean and look for ways to better understand how diseases affect coral communities and how corals may respond to different climate change scenarios.
“This information may help us better identify disease resistance and susceptibility for reefs worldwide,” Muller said. “Understanding which species of coral are resilient and why will aid in more informed management decisions, especially when deciding which corals are best suited for coral reef restoration projects.”
Coral reefs are very sensitive to environmental changes, which may increase coral colonies' susceptibility to many diseases, including white plague, which can cause rapid tissue loss and partial or total colony mortality.
Disturbances such as white plague outbreaks play increasingly important roles in changing the structure of coral reef communities, particularly in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean has been called a “hot spot” for coral disease because of a rapid emergence of new diseases, increased frequency of disease-related events and rapid spread of emerging diseases among new species and regions.
“We hypothesize that disease outbreaks are one of the primary factors shaping reef declines in the Caribbean today and that we can predict future coral community structure using disease and immune traits,” Muller said.
Scientists hope the results of this study will identify particular immune traits that may influence community structure, demonstrate how disease and immune traits are shaping community structure of corals, and provide predictions of how the structure of reef communities throughout the Caribbean region will change under different climate change scenarios.        
The first step will be to determine how the immune systems in each of the tested coral species differ by exposing them to bacterial immune stimulators, molecules which will trigger an authentic immune response without having a pathogen, or cause of an actual disease present.
The second step will be to measure susceptibility of these corals to white plague disease by exposing the corals to white plague in a lab setting.
The third step will be to use the data from these two experiments to create a predictive model that will identify the potential winners and losers within the coral community under future climate-change scenarios.
Muller is responsible for creating the predictive model.
“Ultimately, I will be using the data collected by the two experiments to create a way to help predict how these coral species will react during future changes in our climate,” Muller said. “We hope this study will increase our baseline knowledge of coral immunity and susceptibility to disease, which is a leading causes of death in corals in the Caribbean. Once we learn this, we can learn how to best conserve these species and prevent future disease outbreaks.”

2017 Party on the Pass raises funds for Mote’s animal hospitals

Here are more high-res photos!
Top: Rebeccah Hazelkorn (Mote Stranding Investigations Program), Jenna Rouse (Mote hospital staff), Lynne Byrd (Mote hospital staff), Gretchen Lovewell (Mote Stranding Investigations Program), Dr. Adrienne Atkins (Mote hospital staff), and Weston Spoon (Mote hospital staff).
Left: Musician Renesito Avich performs at Party on the Pass: “Hot Night in Old Havana” on March 24 at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.
Right: Mote’s 2017 Party on the Pass: “Hot Night in Old Havana” featured centerpieces with palm fronds and citruses.
Credit all: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Lab.
Mote Marine Laboratory would like to thank the guests who attended the 2017 Party on the Pass Friday, March 24, in support of Mote’s Dolphin, Whale & Sea Turtle Hospitals.
More than 400 people were transported to “a hot night in Old Havana” for an evening full of good food provided by local restaurants, good music and goodwill.
Mote Aquarium’s courtyard was decorated in hues of tropical pinks and greens reminiscent of Old Havana. Tables were decorated with palm fronds and citruses and sat under market string lighting. Guests danced to Cuban music performed by musician Renesito Avic as they sipped on “Mote”-jitos created by Siesta Key Rum.
A silent auction of 36 items including a private tour of the Ca' d'Zan and VIP tickets to the Sarasota Film Festival Opening Night Film and Party, was held to raise funds for the animal hospital.
Mote's animal hospitals have rehabilitated more than 70 marine animals including dolphins and small whales since 1992 and more than 615 sea turtles since 1995, always with a goal of releasing the animals back to the wild.
Of the 615 sea turtles treated in Mote’s animal hospitals, more than 200 suffered from fibropapillomatosis, a little-understood disease that can cause life-threatening papilloma tumors in sea turtles.

April 29: Annual Seagrass Survey to connect the public with Sarasota Bay

Join Mote Marine Laboratory scientists as they participate in the Sarasota County Seagrass Survey, in coordination with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). This free, family-friendly event will take place on April 29 at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron (1717 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida).

The Seagrass Survey is a free citizen science event that celebrates Sarasota County’s commitment to its water resources and focuses on increasing awareness of the economic and environmental value of seagrass habitat. Survey volunteers will take to the waters around Sarasota Bay to count and identify seagrass species, in an effort to collect data for the County's Seagrass Monitoring Program.

Registered volunteers will start the morning with the Seagrass Survey from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then stick around for nature-themed games, crafts, and other hands-on activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  
Mote staff scientists Jim Culter and Dr. Emily Hall, along with staff from SBEP, Sarasota County and others, will assist in training volunteers on seagrass species identification, data gathering, fieldwork basics and tips for making the most out of this unique experience.
  • Seagrass Survey volunteers can register online until April 24 by visiting: Registered volunteers will receive a free t-shirt and free lunch voucher (redeemable at one of the food truck vendors present at the event).
Those not registered to volunteer can still enjoy the free activities at the Sailing Squadron. Come make shell necklaces with Sarasota Bay Watch, decorate reef balls with Reef Innovations, learn about sea turtles with the Longboat Key Turtle Watch and get up close and personal with live estuarine creatures with SBEP. Live music and local food trucks will round out the festivities from noon to 3 p.m. Parking will be available outside the Sailing Squadron off Ken Thompson Parkway.

Mote scientists work with marine species found in seagrass beds, for example, advancing community scallop restoration efforts and educating the public about Sarasota’s Bay’s shellfish populations.
Mote researchers aim to learn why the once-abundant bay scallop has been declining in population size over the past decades. A healthy population of scallops leads to improved water quality, turbidity and nutrient reduction at no cost. Scallop population health is correlated with healthy seagrass beds and ecosystem stability.

Research with Mote's nursery-raised scallops and wild scallops is integral to learning more about the cause of declines and defining restoration options to ensure the future health of our local marine ecosystems.

In addition, Mote scientists also study the possible impacts of ocean acidification, a concerning ocean-chemistry change that might ultimately affect multiple species, including shellfish.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization that was founded in 1955. Mote’s beginnings date back six decades to the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.

Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida with field stations in eastern Sarasota County and the Florida Keys and Mote scientists conduct research on the oceans surrounding all seven of the Earth’s continents. Mote is home to over 20 research programs that are dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans, with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to the conservation and sustainability of our marine resources. Mote’s vision also includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at

Contact Us:
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Fla., 34236. 941.388.4441. Copyright©2016 Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, All rights reserved.
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Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium · 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway · Sarasota, FL 34236 · USA

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