Endangered species. Melting ice caps. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Pacific Garbage Patch.

Growing up with these events and more – and taking a handful of oceanography classes to boot – it’s no wonder that protecting our oceans has become one of my most important personal causes. Yet I didn’t quite grasp just how absolutely, globally vital it was until I started working at Global Impact.

Over the last five years, I have seen how caring for our oceans has a far-reaching impact – even extending to international relief and development issues, such as global health, education, refugees, hunger, natural disasters and economic development.

Our oceans are truly the heart of the Earth. Oceans cover 71% of the planet’s surface and are where 80% of our biodiversity resides. They remain a powerful ally for humans in the worlds of technology, renewable energy, economics, education and even global health.

However, oceans are in peril due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and other factors – all largely due to human activity. Because mankind relies on these great resources, this also means that our own future is at stake as well.

But if we have the power to create such negative outcomes, then we have the power to effect positive change, as well. 

Our Charity Alliance partner Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium recognizes this fact. Since 1955, Mote has been working to “advance the science of the sea through research, education and outreach.”

Mote is making strides in ocean research and the monitoring and rehabilitation of marine life. Through its work, we may see the guaranteed future of our oceans and discover a pathway into heathier, more sustainable lifestyles.

The charity has shared with us several programs it’s working on and the global implications of each. Dive in with us and discover six ways Mote is making waves to save our oceans – and our future.

A Mote scientist collects blood samples from an Atlantic stingray for biomedical research.

1) Improving human health by studying sharks and rays
Ocean life is critical to advancements in global health. Marine organisms may produce antibiotic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory substances. They can even act as indicators of future health concerns for humans, making them vital in improving our global health. Sharks, skates and rays, for example, face “low incidence of disease, including cancer, and [are capable of] rapid and infection-free healing of wounds.”

Mote: “For decades, Mote has conducted major research efforts directed at understanding the remarkable overall health of sharks and their skate and ray relatives … The ultimate goal is to use results from these studies to contribute to a better understanding of health problems in other animals and humans and to benefit the wild populations of the particular organisms studied.”

A MarSciLACE intern demonstrates lab equipment used in Florida red tide experiments.

2) Providing a gateway to STEM for minority populations
STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is an area of learning that is vital to our shared future. However, it’s an area that is always in need of new recruits. STEM learning isn’t universally available to all children, and those from underrepresented, minority backgrounds are too often left out.

Interns assist in deploying an AUV glider used to detect Florida red tide in Gulf of Mexico waters.

Mote: Mote recognizes this inequity, and so, “through the federal Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Mote established the Marine Science Laboratory Alliance Center of Excellence, providing authentic research, training and mentoring opportunities to underrepresented, minority students in the marine science field. 

This alliance builds on Mote’s longstanding, unique model for internships, which has brought interns from around the world to participate in providing high-quality research experiences.”

A juvenile snook is weighed, measured and given a PIT tag prior to its release for a stock enhancement effort.

3) Ensuring a sustainable global food source
Fish provide 20% of animal protein to 3 billion people around the world. However, overfishing presents a serious problem that puts this resource at risk. Wild populations need to be sustained to ensure it remains a reliable food source for all. Fisheries and related industries also employ more than 12% of the Earth’s population, making them responsible for a not-small portion of our global economy.

Juvenile snook being raised at Mote Aquaculture Research Park for a stock enhancement effort.

Mote’s: “The continuously growing field of marine aquaculture is one way to alleviate pressures on wild population, and Mote’s team is providing the research behind new aquaculture technologies and strategies, such as developing sustainable sources of fish food, refining recirculating aquaculture and aquaponic systems, growing juvenile fish for stock enhancement efforts and much more. Mote operates its very own 200-acre Aquaculture Research Park where this imperative work takes place.” 

Mote staff release a green sea turtle, nicknamed Spock, back into the Gulf of Mexico after successful rehab at Mote's hospital.

4) Paving the way to global health through helping marine life
In many ways, the creatures that call the ocean “home” are largely why the oceans are so important to our future. These beings have a vital role in maintaining a balance that trickles outward to impact other areas – for example, they play a major role in advancing global health initiatives.

A Mote staff member cares for a tiny baby hatchling with the hopes to rehab it so it can be released.

Mote’s: “Mote … operates its own sea turtle and dolphin hospitals and has released hundreds of healed patients in the last two decades. During sea turtle nesting and hatchling season, [it] also operate[s] a hatchling hospital, where thousands of tiny rescued turtles each year come for a quick pit stop and recovery before they’re released into the ocean.”

Mote’s goal, always, is to release these animals back into the ocean so they can continue their important role in the marine ecosystems. But monitoring these animals is also important to human health:

“All the species we work with are great indicator species. Our turtles and dolphins and whales, they’re on the front lines so if we start seeing issues with them and their environment it’s only a matter of time before [it starts] to effect humans.”Lynne Byrd, Medical Care and Rehabilitation Coordinator

A Mote diver plants Mote-grown coral fragments onto a dead coral head to restore it back to life.

5) Protecting vital habitats through partnership 
Coral reefs are struggling due to the impacts of climate change, pollution and more. These vibrant and expansive systems provide a vital habitat for 25% of all marine life.

Mote's president and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby plants coral onto the reef.

Mote: “Using specially-developed restoration techniques, Mote has restored over 100,000 pieces of coral onto Florida’s Coral Reef … in just the last 10 years.

Its researchers on land are working on unlocking the secrets of coral microbiomes, genetics and resiliency to common stressors.” Mote shares this information with other scientists around the world to support global reef conservation efforts.

The rim of a blue hole, located about 100 feet below the surface, and opens up to even deeper depths.

6) Studying the future of the ocean – and the world 
“Blue holes” – underwater caverns and sinkholes found in the Gulf of Mexico – attract a variety of life and hold important clues to the future of our oceans.

A Mote diver around the rim of a blue hole in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mote: Mote divers, explorers and scientists are investigating these blue holes to find out “why [they] attract so much vibrant marine life. These blue holes are also more acidic and nutrient-rich environments than the immediately surrounding ocean, so scientists view it as a “field laboratory” that could potentially give a glimpse into what the future of our ocean might look like.”

Visitors view Mote Aquarium's resident manatees.

Get involved

I’ve been watching these issues grow for quite a long time, and when I was younger I remember being frustrated at my inability to help. If you’re reading this, you may find yourself in the same boat.

But the good news is, there are plenty of ways that you can work with Mote to continue its mission, whether you’re a child or an adult. Here are just a few:

  • Adopt an animal. Alligators, sea turtles, sharks – oh, my! You can adopt one of the many animals that Mote cares for at the aquarium. With two levels of support, anyone can join in. You’ll even receive a photo of the animal and a note from their caretaker!
  • Learn more – and spread the word! Mote has multiple resources for virtual learning, including virtual field trips, various webinars (like its Women in STEM webinar series!), 24/7 webcam, a trivia game and a podcast (Two Sea Fans). Learn it – then share it. Knowledge is our greatest tool in effecting change.
  • Take a SEA Trek virtual field trip. You can now “visit” Florida safely by connecting to Mote’s lab through your computer and speaking with its subject matter experts. This visit includes science demonstrations and animal encounters, and it is tailored for all ages. So, whether you’re a remote office looking to mix things up or a parent looking to engage your child in learning, this is a great fit – and free.

A Mote diver tends to a coral tree, where fragments are grown before being planted onto the reef.

Want to make an impact through your workplace? Consider making some of the above opportunities part of your employee engagement efforts (including your workplace giving campaign). Contact us for more information on how you can partner with Mote.

The key to sustainable life lies with our oceans – but they’re in danger. We have the power to fix them with the help of organizations like Mote. Will you join the fight?