Just recently, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium made Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Awards, firmly seated as the “Number 5 Best Aquarium in the U.S.” and “Number 15 Best Aquarium in the World.” Zoos and aquariums around the world were rated based on visitors’ comments provided over a 12-month period and it would seem that most visitors love the Mote experience. Mote Aquarium is not only fun and educational, it’s also a window into the research and exploration done by so many dedicated professionals and volunteers who work to preserve and protect our waters and their precious inhabitants.
The educational opportunities offered to the community are unprecedented at Mote. From Mommy and Me classes, where your child’s first impressions of sea life and the need to protect what we also find beautiful can be learned together, to summer camps that include aqua robotics, sure to inspire tech- savvy and nature-loving kids and teens. Internships and scholarships are awarded thanks to several benefactors who have also been inspired by Mote at some point in their lives. They also offer students the opportunity to go on learning excursions to the Keys where perhaps the desire to work on behalf of our waters is ignited. We live in an area ripe with opportunities for young nature lovers and marine biology enthusiasts. Mote provides local and real life interactions with all types of sea creatures that we are fortunate enough to find right off of our beaches.
Mote’s research initiatives include many that directly relate to the quality of water and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. And, beyond our local waters, they also work with other international bodies like the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat and the International Consortium for Marine Conservation on using scientific methods to solve both local and international water and wildlife issues. Mote has a Stranding Investigations Program that is available 24 hours a day to help turtles, dolphins and other water animals that are in need of help. Since the program started assisting sea turtles in 2003, they have helped over 1,000 stranded sea turtles. Mote’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital or its Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital is responsible for receiving and treating dolphins, sea turtles and other marine mammals that are injured.
Mote operates a number of other facilities throughout the state also that conduct studies and offer educational opportunities for groups and classes interested in studying marine life. Ongoing studies including those relating to red tide, shark populations, sea turtle migration and changing fish populations have made significant contributions to relevant issues we face throughout our state and the world.
But the star of the show to many, and the reason people are again talking about Mote, is the exciting hands-on aquarium found in Sarasota. Since first blossoming as the brainchild of the late Eugenie Clarke, a/k/a the Shark Lady, this facility now features a 135,000 shark habitat and a “touch” tank where you can get your hands on many different varieties of sea life. Ask any local where their first introduction to the feel of a starfish was and they’ll likely say it was on a visit to the Mote Aquarium. Kids love to experience things with their hands so this is a great place to let them explore in a fun, controlled water environment. They won’t forget it, and they’ll be delighted with the over 100 species of marine life they’ll get to meet here including the popular manatees and sea turtles. The aquarium is interesting to people of all ages, if not to see the marine life then as a reminder that we all are responsible for our water world and should all be doing our part to protect and preserve it.
Mote hosts several exhibits throughout the year including the popular “Oh Baby! Life Cycles of the Sea,” which many participants of the Trip Advisor surveys found to be very entertaining and informative. And as a really juicy aspect of visiting places like this, whether with a child or with your own child-at-heart self, or partner, there’s always something learned and something worthy of your respect and worthwhile of your visit. At Mote, you can see research and exploration happening while you’re taking in the experience of the aquarium. Nothing is fabricated for the enjoyment of the visitor. It is however perfection to see nature happening and evolving right in front of you. And all of this occurs under the watchful eye of scientists keen on learning from and also protecting our most sensitive species and environments.
So congratulations Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium for your recognition as a top aquarium. And thank you for the daily contributions to the residents of Sarasota and the world, both on land and on sea. It’s wonderful to have such an informative and fun place to visit right here in our midst.
all photos from Wikepedia