Mote boosts coral research with new facility

Last week, threatened coral reefs gained more powerful allies in the Florida Keys as MoteMarine Laboratory held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new research facility at Summerland Key, Florida.

Representative Holly Raschein at the ribbon cutting for Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration.

About 100 people includingMote scientists, trustees, supporters and community leaders attended an invitation-only ribbon cutting and open house where they got the first glimpse inside the new 19,000-square-foot facility. The building more than doubles Mote’s previous space for coral research and restoration efforts and provides an enhanced base of operations for collaborating scientists from around the world.

“Today really is a monumental day for coral reef research and restoration,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby,Mote President & CEO. “Today marks the beginning of an era, a time when not only Mote scientists, but international and national visiting scientists can come to this building and continue to revolutionize the way we restore our coral reefs in our lifetime.”

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mote leaders announced that the new facility is now named the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3). Elizabeth Moore, one of the first lead donors to the facility, dramatically increased her support for the facility in spring 2017.

“Coral reefs are a source of wonder, prosperity and thriving biodiversity — I know it, my family knows it,Mote scientists know it, and together we aim to keep it that way,” Moore said. “Mote scientists are working to restore reefs, using science-based strategies that take into account global challenges such as climate change, and they are forging international partnerships so their innovations can benefit reefs far and wide.”

The new building also includes the Alfred Goldstein Institute for Climate Change Studies, thanks to a generous donation from the Alfred and Ann Goldstein Foundation, which supports the building’s infrastructure and the supporting studies on the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems and restoration.

“As a longtime supporter of Mote, I am excited to support this new facility and the related research that will enhance Mote’s international presence and reputation,” Dr. Al Goldstein said. “The impact of the research housed at this institute will make a profound difference not only in the Florida Keys but around the world.”

Also in attendance was Representative Holly Raschein of the Florida House of Representatives. Raschein, whose Congressional District 120 covers south Miami-Dade County through the Florida Keys, went diving in Mote’s coral restoration nursery in 2014 and said she recognizes the value of restoring reefs in her home waters.

“Mote Marine Laboratory is the epitome of where our state and nation needs to be going in terms of coral reef restoration,” Raschein said.

Scientists at IC2R3 and its Goldstein Institute will advance coral reef research using: new seawater systems, raceways and experimental tanks for studying multiple reef species facing climate change impacts such as rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification; molecular equipment to process and prepare samples for next generation sequencing and genomic analyses — for example, to find the best genetic strains of corals for reef restoration; microbial supplies for studying microscopic life forms that can help or harm coral reefs; a carbonate chemistry lab for ocean acidification research; and more.

The facility is fitted with 30.1 kilowatt solar panels, a rainwater capture system and other eco-friendly features and the application process is under way to designate IC2R3 as the first LEED Gold facility in Monroe County.  The facility also offers eight residential rooms, five offices, two wet labs, three dry labs, two electric car stations and two indoor classrooms and one outdoor classroom for visiting scientists and students.

“I couldn’t be more excited that this building is now officially open to scientists,” said Dr. David Vaughan, Executive Director of IC2R3. “Now we have a greater capability to share the innovative technology developed here at Mote with other talented scientists throughout the world. This new level of collaboration will allow us to propagate even the most challenging massive corals in large numbers in just a few years and share how we do this with the rest of the world. It’s about time we share the ‘good news’ about our coral reefs and our oceans, locally and globally.”

Coral reefs are nicknamed “rainforests of the sea” because they support about 25 percent of marine life on Earth and provide $6.3 billion to Florida’s economy. However, some areas of Florida and the Caribbean have lost 50-80 percent of coral cover in the last three decades, and reefs have declined worldwide.


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