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MILESTONES SPR I N G

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I N S I D E M OT E M AG A Z I N E Special Events

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A Change at the Top

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Tarpon Rule: New Boca Office

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Status Symbols: Tarpon, Bonefish

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New: Conservation International

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Oil and Coral Don’t Mix

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Giving Girls the Keys to Science

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Comings & Goings: Mote Aquarium

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Issues and Impacts: Shark Bites

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SUMME R

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MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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SPECIAL EVENTS Mote 2013 Events Calendar MOTE MAGAZINE n A unique mission. Mote Magazine (ISSN 1553-1104) is published by Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit organization dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans. By telling the stories of sea science, Mote hopes to enhance public understanding of marine research and conservation. PRESIDENT & CEO Kumar Mahadevan, Ph.D. EDITOR Nadine Slimak CREATIVE DIRECTOR Lawson Mitchell CONTRIBUTING WRITER Hayley Rutger CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Aaron Adams, Kirk Deeter, Shane Gross, James Herlan, Lawson Mitchell, NOAA, Mike Olendo, Julien Willem

APRIL April 6. The 27th Annual Run for the Turtles. 1-mile walk, 5K run. Siesta Key Public Beach, 948 Beach Road. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. mote.org/turtlerun. April 17. Wine Tasting. Harry’s Continental Kitchens, 525 St. Judes Drive, Longboat Key. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Reservations recommended. Benefits Mote research, education and animal rehabilitation. $20, with $5 donated to Mote. April 27. Party on the Pass, The Aquarium Courtyard. Casual attire fundraiser. 6:30 p.m. Reservations required. $75. Stacy Alexander at 941-388-4441, ext. 509, or stacyalexander@mote.org.

MAY May 12. Mother’s Day special: Moms receive free admission to The Aquarium with paid child’s ticket.

JUNE June 8. World Oceans Day Family Festival in The Aquarium. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free with admission. June 16. Father’s Day special: Dads receive free admission to The Aquarium with paid child’s ticket.

OCTOBER PUBLISHING PARTNER Mote Magazine is proud to recognize Sarasota Magazine as its publishing partner. For information on sponsorship, please contact Sarasota Magazine at 941-487-1109.

SPRING 2013 • VOLUME 63

Oct. 18. Night of Fish, Fun & Fright. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Safe trick-or-treat event in The Aquarium. $6 online in advance; Mote Members pay $8 at the door. Non-members, $10 at the door. Kids 4 and younger get in free. mote.org/halloween Oct. 26. Oceanic Evening, Mote’s annual black-tie fundraiser at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Stacy Alexander, 941-388-4441, ext. 509, or stacyalexander@mote.org.

INFO: 941-388-4441 • MOTE.ORG

COVER PHOTO

TICKETS ON SALE NOW! JOIN US FOR PARTY ON THE PASS, OUR CASUAL FUNDRAISING EVENT WITH FOOD, DRINKS AND MUSIC. PROCEEDS SUPPORT MOTE’S DOLPHIN, WHALE & SEA TURTLE HOSPITALS MOTE AQUARIUM COURTYARD

6:30 P.M. APRIL 27 Tarpon fishing as we know it today was born in Boca Grande, Fla., where the species remains a popular gamefish for anglers. © Shane Gross.

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$75 PER PERSON RSVP: STACY ALEXANDER AT 941.388.4441, EXT. 509.


A CHANGE AT THE TOP

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n May 17, longtime Mote President and CEO Dr. Kumar Mahadevan will step down, leaving the Lab’s day-to-day operations to incoming President Dr. Michael P. Crosby, who has served as Mote’s Senior Vice President for Research since 2010. Dr. Mahadevan joined Mote as a senior scientist in 1978 — “when not many people in town even knew where Mote was,” he jokes, though for the record, he knew of the Lab when he was a student back in his native India. Indeed, Mote was a much smaller place back then — there were just a handful of young scientists and an operating budget around $300,000. When he assumed the role of President and CEO 27 years later in 1986, the Lab’s annual operating budget was about $2 million, with 52 staff. Today, Mote’s budget is around $18 million, there are 192 staff members, including 32 Ph.D.-level scientists undertaking more than 250 research projects a year, and

the Lab’s estimated economic impact to the community is in excess of $70 million.

Aquarium is one of the most-visited attractions in the region with more than 350,000 visitors annually.

When Dr. Mahadevan took the helm, the Lab made a strong commitment to public outreach, opening a small science center in 1980 and then the larger revamped Mote Aquarium nearly a decade later. It also started focusing on programs for kids, including summer camps.

Sure not a bad track record for a man who never wanted a leadership role. “I wanted to do science,” he says. “I didn’t know when I arrived in Florida from India for graduate school that I would one day work at Mote or even lead it. It really is the American dream.”

“For people to understand our shark research, they have to be able to see sharks,” he says. “I think The Aquarium and our education programs are key to helping people understand that it’s important to conserve our marine environment, what the benefits of it are and what could be lost.”

But don’t think that Mote is letting Dr. Mahadevan off the hook that easily — he’ll remain involved with the Lab under his new title “President Emeritus” and continue promoting and developing support for Mote’s world-class research and education programs. “One of the things that I really like to do is be an ambassador for the Lab — I’ll get to keep doing that!”

Today, Mote educates some 25,000 school children annually and The

MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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MOTE MILESTONES MOTE WELCOMES NEW DEVELOPMENT OFFICERS Mote Marine Laboratory is pleased to announce its appointment of Susan May as Director of Donor Data Management and Amy Sankes as Major Gifts Officer — two prominent development professionals from the Sarasota-Manatee nonprofit community who will help the Lab’s marine research and education efforts continue to grow. May and Sankes Amy Sankes will help raise funding support for the world-class marine research that is priority No. 1 in Mote’s 2020 Vision and Strategic Plan, which serves as the blueprint guiding Mote’s innovative and transformative efforts in local, national

and international marine and biomedical research, education, outreach and policy advice designed to meet the critical needs facing our oceans and positively impact society in this century and beyond. (Read the Strategic Plan at mote. org/aboutus.)

Susan May will manage the data systems

“Mote has accomplished great things throughout its 57-year history as an independent, nonprofit lab, thanks in large part to dedicated supporters in our community,” said Mote’s Chief Susan May Advancement Officer, Tom Waters. “Now we are honored to have two highly respected development experts in our area choose to join us in building and managing these critical relationships.”

Senior Director for Development for The

that support every aspect of Mote’s development efforts, oversee its membership activities and gather and organize knowledge to help us better serve donors, Members and Aquarium visitors. Sankes previously served as John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Florida State University Foundation, where she increased gift income by 400 percent over the past two years.

VISITORS GET A CHARGE OUT OF MOTE Mote visitors can now charge their electric vehicles and learn how much solar energy Mote is capturing thanks to new equipment installed as part of Mote’s Sustainable Energy Initiative. The vehicle charging station is free to the public thanks to Mote volunteer Nigel Mould, an electric-vehicle owner who is funding its operation for two years. In 2012, Mote also mounted new solar energy systems on two of our buildings, thanks to generous donations by Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc., and local solar supporter Jim Lampl. Now, visitors can learn how much energy we are capturing from sunlight and how this sustainable system is helping offset emissions of carbon dioxide by looking at a solar-power monitoring system installed in The Aquarium View our new solar monitor on the second floor of The Aquarium’s Ann and Alfred Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center, 1703 Ken Thompson Parkway (the same facility with the large array of solar panels on the roof).

—Learn more about Mote’s Sustainable Energy Initiative and how you can help at mote.org/energy.

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courtesy of Take Me Fishing ©Kirk Deeter

TARPON RULE AT NEW MOTE OFFICE ON BOCA GRANDE

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ote opened a new satellite office on Boca Grande as a place where residents and visitors could

learn about Mote’s current and proposed marine research programs in Charlotte Harbor — everything from tarpon and snook research to red tide monitoring programs — as well as all the research, education and outreach programs that Mote undertakes from its main campus in Sarasota. The opening ceremony was attended by hundreds of local residents and even a special visitor — former First Lady Laura Bush, who hailed the office as an important resource for ocean conservation during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I understand, like all of you, the pressures on the Gulf of Mexico,”

said Mrs. Bush, a Texas native and part-time Boca Grande resident, who has been an advocate for ocean conservation since former President George W. Bush designated the first-ever National Marine Monuments, creating 350,000 square miles of protected underwater areas. “The Gulf of Mexico is a dynamic marine and coastal environment utilized by tens of millions of people. Mote Marine Laboratory’s new satellite office here will be an important resource for current and proposed research that will help Charlotte Harbor remain one of the state’s — and even the nation’s — healthiest estuaries. Your efforts will protect this beautiful part of the country for our children, our grandchildren and even our grandchildren’s grandchildren.” Former U.S. Representative Andy Ireland, an honorary Mote trustee and a Boca Grande resident who is helping

spearhead Mote’s Boca efforts, also introduced the office’s new Executive Director, Capt. Philip O’Bannon, during the ceremony. O’Bannon, the most well-known fishing guide on the island, is a sixth-generation Floridian who got involved because he wanted to help support the conservation of Charlotte Harbor. “As the Executive Director of the Mote office in Boca Grande, my goals are to protect, preserve and enhance our marine environment — especially tarpon,” he said. Stop by for a visit! The office is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Sunday at 480 East Railroad Ave., Unit 7, Railroad Plaza, Boca Grande. Call 941-855-9251. (Note: Office hours may vary during the off season. Please be sure to call first. The mailing address for the office is P.O. Box 870, Boca Grande, Fla., 33921.)

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STATUS SYMBOLS: TARPON, BONEFISH & LADYFISH By Nadine Slimak © Aaron Adams

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or the first time, fishery scientists, fish ecologists and conservationists have come together to assess the status of and threats facing tarpon, bonefish and ladyfish — species that are recreationally and economically important to coastal regions like Boca Grande and the Florida Keys. The assessment also found that recreational anglers could play a key role in conserving these species. Tarpon, bonefish and ladyfish live in warm-water oceans worldwide and mostly reside in near-shore areas, which brings them into direct contact with

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humans. While these species are exploited in many regions throughout their range, in most cases little is known about how their overall populations are faring. The new information should help resource managers assess species populations in their areas and help point the way for future conservation measures. The assessment workshop was hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an international organization that establishes the conservation status of species worldwide on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The results — being published in the peer-review journal Fish and Fisheries by lead author Dr. Aaron Adams, Mote senior scientist and director of Bonefish Tarpon Trust — show that of the 17 known species of tarpon, ladyfish and bonefish: n Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), which occurs in Florida, and roundjaw bonefish (Albula glossodonta), which occurs in the Indo-West Pacific, are now classified as Vulnerable; n Bonefish (Albula vulpes), which occurs in the Florida Keys and Bahamas, is listed as Near Threatened;


The economic value of the tarpon fishery in Charlotte Harbor alone is estimated to exceed $110 million annually.

Understanding Charlotte Harbor’s Tarpon Mote is proposing the first-ever, large-scale acoustic tagging project of adult tarpon. This groundbreaking initiative — including partnership with local fishing guides and anglers — will determine the movements of tarpon and help fill in gaps in our knowledge of the species. An array of 100 receivers will be placed in multiple habitats in and around Charlotte Harbor, including the passes, along beaches, rivers and within the estuary and will record movements of each fish. The information will be used to understand tarpon habitat use and how tarpon respond to changes in fishing pressure and river flow. The receivers will also tell us whether tarpon return to Boca Grande Pass after spawning offshore and whether they return year after year. n Three species are listed as Least Concern; n And, for 11 species, there aren’t enough data available to make a determination on the population status. In Florida, and many other areas within their range, tarpon and bonefish support recreational fisheries that bring millions of dollars through ecotourism. For instance, the economic value of the tarpon fishery in Charlotte Harbor alone is estimated to exceed $110 million annually. In the Everglades, the species is an even more important economic draw as part of a fishery bringing in $991 million.

“In places that had the strongest recreational ecotourism, the populations of these species appear to be the most stable,” says Adams. “That’s good news. But the problem is that even in areas like Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys where we have some data, there are still vital gaps in our knowledge hampering our ability to conserve and protect these species. We hope this new assessment will help kick start research and conservation efforts and bring these species the attention they deserve.”

Our tagging approach will also tell us how tarpon are responding to stressors and allow us to track the movement of tarpon beyond Charlotte Harbor and into the Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern U.S. coast thanks to similar underwater arrays in other locations.

—For information on how you can support this proposed initiative, please contact Mote Major Gifts Officer Amy Sankes at 941-3884441, ext. 393.

—Partial funding for this work was provided by the Moore Family Foundation. MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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© Julien Willem

© Mike Olendo/WWF-Kiunga

By Nadine Slimak

Conservation WITH AN INTERNATIONAL FLAIR MOTE IS HOSTING A NEW GROUP DEDICATED TO ADDRESSING CRITICAL NEEDS FOR HABITAT RESTORATION AND SPECIES PROTECTION WORLDWIDE.

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he numbers are appalling and unacceptable: Of the 63,837 species worldwide that have undergone population assessments, 19,817 — a startling one out of three — are threatened with extinction. But in reality, those figures don’t take into account the threats to species that have never been studied; nor do

Now, a new coalition of aquariums, zoos and governmental and non-governmental organizations hosted at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium will address some of these critical needs for conservation of marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds and other species in locations worldwide that have been underserved by science-based initiatives.

they address the threats to human populations that occur

The new International Consortium for Marine Conservation,

when species disappear.

with partners in the U.S. and abroad, will be led by Director

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Dr. John Reynolds, Senior Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory and immediate past Chairman of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. “Traditional thinking has been that if you do good science, conservation will follow as a natural outcome,” said Reynolds, who chaired the Marine Mammal Commission under four Presidential administrations between 1991 and 2010. “But in reality, the translation from science to conservation is far from automatic. If the social and political will to make change isn’t there, then the conservation measures that are needed will never be enacted. Science is extremely valuable to inform conservation decisions, but conservation takes much more than just the science to succeed.” Instead of focusing only on science, the International Consortium for Marine Conservation will also draw in groups with social, economic, cultural and policy specialties to work proactively on solutions to environmental issues.

“MareCet is most proud and excited to be a part of this new conservation coalition. As a new marine conservation grassroots NGO, being in the ICMC will allow us to enhance our mission of improving marine conservation within Southeast Asia through the extensive networking and technical support and know-how of international partners within the Consortium.” —Dr. Louisa Ponnampalam, MareCet’s Chairperson and Co-Founder

“This is really coalition-building for conservation,” Reynolds said. “We will have a bottom-up approach by working with grassroots organizations. But we will also have a top-down approach by working with decision makers, including legislators. That way, we’re all working toward the same end and will be able to accomplish projects that lead to protecting animals and their habitats. In turn, that benefits humans, too.” Members and Associate Members of the International Consortium include: n Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium n Alaska SeaLife Center n BASE Entertainment n Dolphin Quest (on behalf of Ocean Quest Conservation Foundation, Malaysia) n Eckerd College n Georgia Aquarium n KRE8 360 n The MareCet Research Organization, Malaysia n Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), Tampa, FL n Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation n National Aquarium in Baltimore n North Slope Borough n Saint Louis Zoo n Southern Caribbean Cetacean Network

BIG BEL SAYS GOODBYE A loggerhead sea turtle nicknamed “Big Bel” that was treated in Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital for several months returned to the wild in February. Big Bel was found stranded off of Fort Myers Beach after Hurricane Isaac passed through the area at the end of August, said Bob Wasno, Public Outreach Coordinator at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Vester Marine and Environmental Science Field Station. Tourists had spotted the struggling sea turtle in the surf and called the local sea turtle patrol, Turtle Time, for help. “I grabbed one of my interns to help and picked up a buddy and his wife on the way,” Wasno said. Wasno, along with intern Marine Fuhrmann and David and Tricia Kessel helped carry the turtle to a truck so it could be transported to the Vester field station. After a few days, it was transferred to CROW, a wildlife rehabilitation facility on Sanibel. In November, Big Bel came to Mote for additional care. During its time in care, veterinary staff removed an incredible 22 pounds of epibiota growth on its carapace (living things like algae and barnacles). The turtle, a female, was believed to be suffering from lethargic loggerhead syndrome and also had old wounds. With a crowd gathered on Lido Beach to wish her well, the 214-pound turtle was set down on the sand near the water — she crawled right in and quickly disappeared! MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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OIL & CORAL LARVAE DON’T MIX, STUDY SAYS

By Hayley Rutger

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aby corals of at least some species are vulnerable to Deepwater Horizon oil and are especially likely to die when exposed to dispersants used during a spill, according to a

lab-based study by Mote scientists that was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE earlier this year. The study was the first controlled test of how Deepwater Horizon oil and the dispersant Corexit® 9500 affect coral larvae — the drifting offspring of corals that must settle and grow to maintain and expand reefs. While the study focused on two coral species from the Florida Keys — an area not directly impacted by the spill — the The coral larvae in this study were collected under the government research permit FKNMS-2010-080-A2 issued by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Coral reefs within the Sanctuary are protected by federal law.

results highlight concerns about corals nearer to the spill site and provide new insights for mitigating oil spills near reefs. The Deepwater Horizon rig spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and responders used nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant — a chemical that can break up oil slicks into small droplets that diffuse in the water column.

© Christopher Doropolous

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Dispersants help keep oil slicks from

reaching shore, but they may change and even exacerbate the threats from oil toxins in the underwater environment. During the study, scientists tested larvae from two coral species widespread in the Florida Keys — mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) and mountainous star coral (Montastraea faveolata) — in water containing the dissolved components of Deepwater Horizon oil from the source, weathered oil, the dispersant Corexit® 9500 and the combined oil and dispersant. They monitored the coral larvae for 72 hours at different concentrations of each solution and they also tested how the mountainous star coral larvae fared in solutions that were slowly diluted over 96 hours. They found that larvae exposed to oil components died sooner and settled less than control larvae given only seawater. Both species were also highly vulnerable to Corexit® 9500. “Dispersant, and the mixture of oil and dispersant, may be highly toxic to coral larvae and prevent them from building new parts of the reef,” said Dr. Kim Ritchie, principal investigator on the emergency Protect Our Reefs grant supporting this study. “In addition, our results support the growing knowledge


©NOAA / Flower Garden Banks

FREE

Set of Mote Tervis tumblers with purchase of a new “Protect Our Reefs” plate. Visit reefplate.com for details.

that certain coral species may fare worse than others during oil spills.” Co-author Dr. Dana Wetzel, manager of Mote’s Environmental Laboratory for Forensics, noted that the study helps broaden the scientific understanding of oil spill effects. “While we have knowledge about the toxicity of oil and dispersants on fish and shellfish, there has been limited information available so far on the lethal effects of oil on coral larvae.”

READ MORE This study was conducted by Dr. Kim Ritchie, manager of Mote’s Marine Microbiology Program, Dr. Dana Wetzel, manager of Mote’s Environmental Laboratory for Forensics, and Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, former Mote postdoctoral researcher who is now an instructor at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. See the complete paper online at mote.org/larvae. REEFPLATE.COM Get the plate that supports them all.

Support coral reef restoration and conservation.

MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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GIVING GIRLS THE KEYS TO SCIENCE EDUCATION By Hayley Rutger When the group of elementary students from Girls Incorporated visited The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory in February, they thought seeing the 135,000-gallon shark habitat was the highlight of their trip — until the real surprise swam into view. “There was a man underwater holding up signs,” said 9-year-old Shaniya Lane. “One sign said ‘Girls Inc. is…’ and the other said ‘going to the Keys!’” The news was out: The girls would be heading to the Florida Keys as part of an ongoing Mote-Girls Inc. partnership program for marine science education. The joint program, launched in fall 2012, allows Mote’s marine science educators to present programs at the Girls Inc.

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headquarters and host participating girls at Mote for field trips focused on ocean animals, research and conservation. The partnership program was made possible through support from Mote Trustee Mary Lou Johnson, and it is being supported for a year or more through a generous donation by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which fully funded the girls’ trip to the Keys. Women across the U.S. are gaining steam in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — but a gender gap remains: Women filled fewer than 25 percent of U.S. STEM jobs in 2009, even though they held nearly half the nation’s total jobs, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce. “The collaboration between Mote and Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County is not only a win for the girls engaging in the marine sciences, but it is also a win for both agencies to combine our own unique strengths for a program that will encourage our girls to possibly work in the marine sciences job market,” said Susan Jones, Girls Inc. Board Chair. “We

are thrilled at the girls’ ability to learn and explore the research being done right here in Sarasota County at Mote.” The Mote-Girls Inc. partnership program started out with a six-week segment about sea turtles — endangered and threatened marine reptiles that nest on local beaches where Mote scientists have led sea turtle research and conservation for more than three decades — and would culminate this semester with the trip to the Keys. During the trips, the girls would visit a mangrove island, try their hand at catch-and-release fishing, meet sea turtles at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, discover dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and of course, snorkel on coral reefs — a major focus of Mote’s world-class research in the Florida Keys. “Miss Gina and Miss Kelly (of Mote) have been teaching us about coral,” Shaniya said. “I think coral is beautiful.”


WHERE IS MOLLY THE MOLLUSK? Molly, Mote Aquarium’s giant squid specimen, is making her world premiere as part of a brand-new “Sea Monsters Revealed” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The exhibit is the world’s largest show of plastinated sea creatures. You can visit the exhibit and see Molly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays now through Sept. 2, 2013.

MEET CALEB! The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory is excited to introduce our newest resident: Caleb, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that now calls our Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors Exhibit home. Caleb is the first Kemp’s ridley turtle to become a permanent resident at Mote. The exhibit also houses loggerhead and green turtles that could not be released, has a hospital for hatchling sea turtles and features educational displays about Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research, highlighting how the public can help sea turtles survive in the wild.

Sea Monsters Revealed tickets are $18.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors (60+) and $12.95 for children (2-12). Guests can add MOSI general exhibits or a documentary IMAX film to their Sea Monsters Revealed ticket for $5 each. (Because of Mote’s reciprocal relationship with MOSI, the $5 general admission fee would be waived for Mote Members during April and May.) Reservations suggested: Call (813) 987-6000 or visit mosi.org.

Caleb is a juvenile turtle with a shell just 14 inches long and weighing in at about 20 pounds. Wildlife officials determined that Caleb would not survive if he was returned to the wild because of impaired swimming abilities. When we heard the news that Caleb was looking for a permanent home, Mote was happy to provide one. “Caleb doesn’t have that full range of movement he’d need to survive in the wild — the ability to undergo long migrations and avoid boats or predators,” said Holly West, Sea Turtle Care Coordinator. “We’re glad to provide him a permanent home where we can work with him to improve his swimming abilities and where he can help educate the public about this endangered species.” As a sea turtle ambassador, Caleb will now be able to help Mote visitors of all ages learn about Kemp’s ridleys — considered the most endangered sea turtle species on Earth.

MOSI 4801 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33617

—Support the care of Caleb and other sea turtles in The Aquarium by adopting a sea turtle at mote.org/adopt.

MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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ISSUES AND IMPACTS:

CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT SHARK BITES By Hayley Rutger

When we think about sharks, one of the first things that comes to mind for many of us is the movie Jaws with its rogue great white attacking humans in Amity Island, N.Y. The movie was so popular it spawned a cottage industry of shark attack movies and even Discovery Channel’s popular “Shark Week.” The term “shark attack” is ubiquitous — used by media, government officials, researchers and the public to describe almost any kind of human-shark interaction, including those where no contact or injury occurs between humans and sharks. But a new research paper by Christopher Neff of the University of Sydney, Australia, and Dr. Robert Hueter, leader of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research, is proposing a sea change in the way we think about human-shark interactions and calling for a new system of classification that provides more accurate scientific reporting and public discussion about shark risk to swimmers and divers. “Not all shark ‘attacks’ are created equal, and we certainly shouldn’t call bites on kayaks and bites on people the same thing,” says Neff, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney. 

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Sharks were labeled “man-eaters” two centuries ago by scientists who had a limited understanding of shark behavior and biology and a researcher in the 1950s wrongly suggested sharks could go “rogue,” developing a taste for human flesh. “But our contemporary scientific understanding of sharks paints a very different picture than early research and even current public discourse,” says Hueter, leader of the only Congressionally designated national research center in the U.S. focused on sharks. “Few sharks look like the large great whites you might see on the movie screen; of about 500 shark species on earth, most grow to less than 3 feet long. In addition, most shark species rarely, if ever, come into contact with humans. When they do, serious bites are the extremely rare exception rather than the rule.” In the study, Neff and Hueter analyzed shark statistics from around the world and found the term “shark attack” misleading in many cases. For instance, in Florida — often called the “Shark Attack Capital of the World” because of the number of reported shark attacks — only 11 fatal bites have been recorded over the past 129 years. That’s a lower number than several other locations in the world, and vastly lower than deaths from other types of natural events such as drowning or lightning.


Researchers say use of term “shark zttack” leads to misperceptions, inaccurate risk reporting.

“We shouldn’t equate the single bite of a 2-foot shark on a surfer’s toe with the fatal bite of a 15-foot shark on a swimmer, but that’s how the current language treats these incidents,” Hueter says.

“These new categories provide better information to the public

Neff and Hueter propose grouping shark bites into four categories based on outcomes that can be clearly documented, rather than speculation over what the sharks’ motives and intentions were. These include:

pieces of information. There simply is no value in using ‘attack’

SHARK SIGHTINGS: Sightings of sharks in the water in proximity to people with no physical contact.

SHARK ENCOUNTERS: No bite takes place and no humans are injured, but physical contact occurs with a person or an inanimate object holding a person, such as a surfboard or boat. A shark might also bump a swimmer and its rough skin might cause a minor abrasion.

SHARK BITES: Bites by small or large sharks that result in minor to moderate injuries.

FATAL SHARK BITES: One or more bites causing fatal injuries. The authors caution against using the term “shark attack” unless the motivation and intent of the shark are clearly established by experts, which is rarely possible.

so they can judge their levels of risk based on local shark activity,” Neff said. “If ‘sightings’ of sharks are increasing, or if ‘encounters’ with kayaks are decreasing these are important language. It is time to move past Jaws.”

READ IT “Science, policy, and the public discourse of shark ‘attack’: a proposal for reclassifying human–shark interactions” can be downloaded at mote.org/sharkbite.

MOTE MAGAZINE | SPRI N G 2013

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1600 Ken Thompson Parkway Sarasota, FL 34236-1004

NON PROFIT ORG. U.S. Postage PAID Manasota, FL Permit #1201

(941) 388-4441 www.mote.org

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r o m a n t i c

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PATRICE BOEKE AND TOM ALBURN both had long been single until fate intervened in the form of Mote’s founding director, Dr. Eugenie Clark. Tom, who grew up near Philadelphia and attended college in upstate New York, met Genie in 1989 and became one of her most trusted assistants on annual dives off Curacao, the Cayman Islands, in the Red Sea, Thailand, Indonesia, Florida, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Patrice was born in California and moved around the country while growing up and getting a degree in marketing. And marketing is what she did for a living before deciding that she would marry if she could find “Mr. Right.” Neither hobbies of horseback riding nor golf produced a fitting partner, but scuba diving finally did — in a most unusual way. Patrice and Genie both happened to be living in Bethesda, Md., in 1997. Though they frequented the same beauty salon, they had never met. One day, the salon’s owner overheard Patrice talk about her new interest in diving and passed along Genie’s number to Patrice, thinking she could go on one of Genie’s trips. Genie invited Patrice to join an upcoming expedition to the Sea of Cortez to study whale sharks and more expeditions followed.

Genie learned more about Patrice and thought that she could be a good match for Tom. Her first try at matchmaking was so successful a romance blossomed and Tom proposed. He wrote, “Will you marry me?” on a dive slate when both were submerged 70 feet down in a rock quarry testing dry suits. They were married in 2003 on the Nai’a, a live-aboard dive boat in the Fijian Islands. Their shared interest also led Patrice and Tom to became Mote donors, designating the Lab as beneficiary in their IRAs and becoming members of the Mote Legacy Society in the process. There are other ways to join the Legacy Society, some of which can give you a lifetime income and leave Mote a handsome gift. Talk to an expert: Your financial adviser or Ann Hayes, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving at 941-388-4441, ext. 261, or plannedgiving@mote.org.

There are many ways you can add your solid financial backing to support Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. For a start, talk to Ann Hayes, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving, at 941-388-4441, ext. 261, or e-mail plannedgiving@mote.org.

M16 MOTE MAGAZINE | S P RIN G 2013


Mote Magazine, Spring 2013f