Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium: Red Tide Update; Mote Scientist Honored by International Shark Group; Save the Date for Mote Events

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Red Tide Updates; Mote Scientist Honored by International Shark Research Society; Mote’s Night of Fish, Fun and Fright; Mote’s Oceanic Evening

Red Tide Updates

Robot Waldo Comes Home, Water Sampling to Continue

The red tide bloom remains offshore of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and no impacts have been detected alongshore this week as of Wednesday, Aug. 13, according to a team of scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida (USF) who continue to monitor the bloom.

According to the last clear satellite images, on Aug. 8, the bloom was reported to be patchy, up to 60 miles wide and 90 miles long, and at least 20 miles offshore between Dixie and northern Pinellas counties. The next update, including coastal water sampling results from this week, will be available on Aug. 15 at

Recent forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show slow south-southeast movement of the surface bloom parallel to the coastline, and slow southeast movement of deep waters.

Waldo the robot comes home to Mote
“Waldo,” the underwater robot deployed by Mote Marine Laboratory to study the offshore bloom of Florida red tide, is recovered and by boat for return to Mote on Aug. 13, following a successful mission covering over 140 miles. (Credit Mote Marine Laboratory.)
  • Click here for a high-res copy of this image and a short video clip showing the recovery of Mote’s underwater robot “Waldo” after his successful mission to help monitor the offshore red tide bloom. (Please credit to Mote Marine Laboratory and do not post this link publicly.)
Mote Marine Laboratory’s underwater robot “Waldo” was returned home today, Aug. 13, to Mote’s main Lab on City Island, Sarasota, following his successful mission to monitor conditions along the eastern edge of the bloom.

Waldo was recovered by Mote staff on a boat about 15 miles off Pinellas County after he finished zig-zagging south over 140 miles from the central part of the bloom to beyond the southern edge last shown by satellite images.

Waldo monitored conditions such as water temperature, salinity and depth and used a red tide detector called an “optical phytoplankton discriminator” or “BreveBuster” developed at Mote to support short-term red tide forecasting by USF and FWC.

Basic data was sent to Mote during the mission via Waldo’s satellite transmitter, and more detailed analyses will be carried out at Mote to understand what other types of microscopic algae were present along with the red tide algae.

With Waldo safely on board, the Mote team collected water samples and data including temperature, depth, salinity and chlorophyll at multiple locations between the endpoint of Waldo’s mission and Mote’s main Lab on City Island, Sarasota. Samples will be analyzed in the coming days to count any red tide algae cells.

The USF robot “Bass” is still on patrol along the eastern edge of the bloom, collecting physical and optical data to support forecasting. Bass will look at deep waters of the bloom to better describe its southern boundary.

Mote and FWC scientists to keep watch on southwest Florida waters
It is important to monitor south of the bloom’s last known edge (offshore of northern Pinellas County) because recent forecasts suggest it will move slowly south and southeast parallel to the coast.

On Aug. 19, Mote and FWC scientists plan to collect water samples and additional data by boat from multiple locations along southwest Florida’s coast. This sampling trip is part of the FWC-Mote Cooperative Red Tide Program. Together, FWC and Mote sampling efforts will cover a wider swath of ocean and provide more types of data for research at both institutions.

Mote and FWC will sample from 16 coastal sites and four offshore sites between Tampa Bay in Pinellas County and San Carlos Bay in Lee County. FWC will cover a northern group of stations and Mote will cover a southern group.

At all locations, the researchers will collect temperature, depth and conductivity data (to measure salinity) and gather water samples to count red tide algae cells. At select locations, additional data will be collected on other  factors that relate to blooms, including waterborne nutrients, toxins, and pigments to understand what types of microscopic algae are present.

Red tide resources:

Mote Scientist Honored by International Shark Research Society

Shark researchers have placed Mote Marine Laboratory scientist Dr. Carl Luer in their “hall of fame.” The American Elasmobranch Society (AES) presented its Distinguished Fellow Award this month to Luer, who studies disease-fighting traits of sharks and rays to support the quest for better human medical care.
AES is the international level, professional society for those who study sharks and their relatives the skates, rays, guitarfish and sawfish — a group of fishes called elasmobranchs. Members include college and university faculty and students, scientific staff at government agencies and museums, conservation biologists, biologists at public aquariums throughout the world and scientists at independent marine research institutions, such as Mote.
The AES Distinguished Fellow Award is presented by AES representatives to one of their members through a nomination and review process that takes months. The award recognizes career accomplishments that have contributed significantly to the knowledge and understanding of sharks and their relatives.

Luer’s peers surprised him with the award on Aug. 3 during the 2014 Annual Meeting of AES in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“I’m not sure my feet have touched the ground yet,” said Luer, who was honored for his career in research and his service to AES — including four years as its president. “The past recipients of this award are huge names in shark research, and I’m honored to be considered among them.”

Including Luer, 11 people have received the award during the Society’s 30-year existence, including the famous “Shark Lady” who founded Mote, Dr. Eugenie Clark, along with two of her fellow history-makers at Mote: Dr. Perry Gilbert and Stewart Springer. (Scroll down for a full list of honorees since the first award in 1987.)

AES honorees have made leaps and bounds in biology, anatomy, sensory and behavior studies, ecology, fisheries dynamics and other key fields focused on sharks and their relatives.

Luer and his colleagues have taken shark research in surprising and promising new directions.

“While the AES honorees so far have focused mainly on whole animals, our main focus is biochemistry – in particular, we’re doing biomedical research to understand what sharks and rays can teach us about resisting disease,” said Luer, manager of the Marine Biomedical Research Program at Mote. “For a long time, people have reported that these animals rarely get cancer, and their wounds heal very quickly and without infection. Through years of study, we have demonstrated that these animals do have unusual healing abilities, and we have made tremendous progress toward understanding some of the reasons why.”

Luer and his Mote colleague Dr. Cathy Walsh have found that certain substances from shark immune systems inhibit the growth of several human cancer cell lines in the lab. Recently they have focused on understanding how these substances work at the molecular level, and they aim to isolate and describe the “active ingredients” to allow for more detailed testing in the search for new and improved cancer therapies. The project is currently funded by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, a Florida High Tech Corridor Industry Seed Grant, and numerous matching grants.

Luer, Walsh and colleagues are also studying antimicrobial substances from the mucus on stingrays, looking for possible new sources of antibiotics that could fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They are also studying the wound-healing processes in stingrays to understand why these animals seem to heal quickly and resist infection.
These projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

American Elasmobranch Society Distinguished Fellows over the years (* means Mote affiliation):

1987 – Samuel “Sonny” Gruber
1988 – Stewart Springer*
1989 – Perry Gilbert*
1991 – John “Jack” Casey
1992 – Thomas Thorson
1998 – Donald Nelson
1999 – Eugenie Clark*
2005 – Arthur Myrberg
2009 – Jack Musick
2010 – Gregor Cailliet
2014 – Carl Luer*

AES has supported the scientific study of sharks, skates and rays since 1983. Learn more at:

Night of Fish, Fun and Fright

Save the Date: Oct. 17

Buoys and ghouls of all ages are invited to dress up in costume for a Night of Fish, Fun and Fright from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17 at Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island, Sarasota.

Sail the spooky seas and discover creatures from the deep in a safe and fun trick-or-treating zone and explore “Dr. Frankin-Fish’s Lab of Horrors” (recommended for children 8 and older).

Unearth sharks’ teeth in “Coffin Creek,” enjoy deep sea delights in the “Diner of the Dead” and take part in an education program geared toward ages 2-5. Don’t miss our signature underwater pumpkin carving in our spooktacular shark exhibit!

Ticket prices:

(About the logo: Drac-Hugh-La is a play on the name of Mote’s resident manatee Hugh.)

Mote’s Oceanic Evening

Save the Date: Oct. 25

Make your reservation today for Mote Marine Laboratory’s signature gala, Oceanic Evening.

This annual black-tie fundraiser for marine science, conservation and education will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive.

Tickets are $300 per person and include a gourmet dinner featuring Mote Farm-Raised Sturgeon and Caviar — local seafood raised sustainably in aquaculture by Mote.

For reservations and sponsorships, contact Stacy Alexander or Erin Knievel at 941-388-4441 or [email protected] or [email protected].



Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote has 24 research programs and a variety of initiatives dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at

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