Daily Point of Light # 1695 Aug 2, 2000

There is a special group of retirees contributing thousands of hours to Mote Marine Laboratory and the marine world. They remember when the sea and sky were bluer, the fishing was better, and manatees and dolphins thrived along the coastline. Mote’s volunteers remember, and they are determined to return those conditions to the community through their efforts for stewardship of the marine environment and its inhabitants through their work at Mote.

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit organization. The Laboratory seeks to pursue knowledge in marine and environmental sciences and to educate the public through its aquarium. Without the aid of our dedicated crew of volunteers, most of whom are retirees, this mission would be impossible. In 1999, more than 1,200 volunteers donated an estimated 141,000 hours of service.

For example, Mote volunteers serve the community as aquarium guides, positioned throughout the aquarium to explain various exhibits, which are based on Mote’s research. Again and again, guests praise Mote volunteers for being friendly, knowledgeable and attentive, especially to visiting children. Our volunteers can also be seen in the community educating about the marine environment through the Mote Mobile Exhibit, an aquarium on wheels.

Often braving cold and wind, volunteers involved in the Marine Mammal Stranding Program support the animals in medical tanks around the clock. Whatever the outcome, valuable information of the animal’s life history and for similar animal’s care in future strandings is gained. Sea turtle volunteers patrol Gulf Coast beaches at sunrise everyday May through October ensuring all sea turtle nests are marked, safe and undisturbed. Considerable tedious, behind-the-scenes work is also the responsibility of volunteers. Processing tissue samples, sorting microscopic organisms, and cleaning tanks are examples of less visible, but vital, services volunteers contribute.

What makes Mote’s volunteer program unique is that is was created and organized by a few dedicated volunteer in the early 1980’s when there was still a very small paid staff. The few Mote volunteers at the time recognized and responded to a need to fill the increasing needs of the expanding laboratory. A Volunteer Board was established, committees were formed, and bylaws were written, making possible today’s well-organized, extensive volunteer program. These dedicated volunteers manage much of the program themselves, with a year-round, ongoing commitment.

Mote volunteers come from all walks of life and financial backgrounds. Their support allows Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to continue its work in protecting and understanding the environment. In turn, Mote enables volunteers to use their career expertise and develop lifelong friendships. Not only do these folks help the environment and the community, but also they themselves use the skills it took a lifetime to hone. What is wonderful for Mote is good for the retirees, who willingly now accept leadership position because they want to serve.