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These coral fragments are being grown at Mote's Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration using a technique that Mote scientists honed for restoring wild coral colonies. Photo credit: Mote Marine Laboratory / Conor Goulding.

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Mote Marine Laboratory was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to support Mote’s efforts in restoring the rapidly declining reef habitats within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The goals for this grant include microfragmenting coral in Mote’s inland coral nursery to support outplanting efforts, continuing genetic testing of coral to measure resiliency for future ocean conditions, and training international researchers in reef restoration. These efforts will ultimately support Mote’s overall efforts to outplant a minimum of 25,000 corals in the coming year.

“This grant builds on the Barancik Foundation’s last grant, which helped Mote to construct its new state-of-the-art facility in the Florida Keys,” shared Teri A Hansen, President and CEO of the Barancik Foundation. “Our Foundation believes in supporting efforts that will make a lasting impact for the environment. Investing in Mote’s research and restoration efforts will do just that.”

Coral reefs around the world provide habitat to more than 1 million species of plants and animals, are a source of food for millions, and a resource for potential new medicines. Florida’s reef tract also protects shorelines from major storms and sustains tourism by attracting more than 16 million visitors a year and 71,000 jobs – providing an economic engine worth $6.3 billion to Florida alone. Globally, the impact of coral reefs is estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion a year.

During the last 40 years, Florida’s corals have declined in many areas by more than 90 percent, with some species losing more than 97 percent of their populations and becoming listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Consideration of the current and increasingly severe threats to their long-term survival such as increased water temperature, ocean acidification and spreading diseases is necessary to saving the coral reef ecosystem.

“As an independent marine research institution, contributions from supporters like the Barancik Foundation are a vital component to succeeding in Mote’s mission,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President and CEO of Mote, “Philanthropic investment by one of our community’s finest institutions helps to highlight the three core pillars of Mote’s unique culture of innovative research – passion for science, partnerships and philanthropy – and enables meaningful impacts. We are both thrilled and humbled by the confidence of the Barancik Foundation in Mote’s proven ability to address one of the grand challenges facing our oceans, saving the rainforests of the sea.”

At the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3), Mote scientists raise and study more than 20 species of hard corals, using fragments “rescued” by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary following boat groundings and other disturbances. Mote’s broodstock reserve facility maintains optimal light and water chemistry conditions to produce thousands of coral fragments for reef restoration and conduct studies to determine optimal restoration for the warmer, more acidic oceans expected in our future. IC2R3 also serves as an important and unique base of operations for hundreds of other researchers from over 60 different institutions around the world who are working to restore and protect reefs. Part of the Barancik Foundation’s gift will go towards helping Mote conduct trainings for these visiting researchers and students allowing restoration to expand and accelerate everywhere. Philanthropic support from organizations like the Barancik Foundation has been instrumental in moving Mote’s innovative coral reef research and restoration technology forward to a point where it can be scaled up for truly achieving a difference.

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