Mote celebrates World Oceans Day on Gasparilla Island

■ STAFF REPORT     mote logo

A worldwide ocean celebration is on the horizon. Aquatic scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory invite everyone to join them from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 to celebrate World Oceans Day at 480 East Railroad Ave. in Boca Grande.

The educational event will include fun and interactive presentations about the health of our sea. World Oceans Day, nationally celebrated on June 8, is a dedicated day of celebration and education that provides an annual opportunity to honor, appreciate and help conserve the world’s oceans.

“Our oceans help regulate our climate, provide us with the oxygen we breathe and feed millions of people every year,” said Mote employee Ashley Hill in a press release.

This year, Mote will be celebrating World Oceans Day on the island with a fun and educational family festival dedicated to Earth’s oceans and the numerous creatures living in them. While marine and coastal research has always been Mote’s core function, its endeavors continue to emphasize the need for this research to have a positive impact on the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of our local, national and international communities.

World Oceans Day allows children to explore the marine world and excite their passions for oceans and become better stewards of the coastal environment. “This year’s free family-friendly event will include educational activities that will focus around human impacts on the ocean and ways to reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Hill. The Mote Mobile exhibit will be at the festival with hands-on activities, including a live touch tank.

“This is the first year Mote is celebrating World Oceans Day in Boca Grande, and it is the ninth year Mote is celebrating World Oceans Day at its Aquarium in Sarasota,” said Kaitlyn Fusco, Mote Marine Public Relations Manager. There is also a celebration planned for this Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota. This event will focus on the national theme, “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.”

It will feature games and crafts focused on green practices, marine science and conservation by Mote and other local organizations. The family festival is free with regular paid admission to Mote Aquarium and is free for Mote members. Some of the organizations contributing will include Save Our Seabirds, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Southwest Florida Water Management District.

If you are interested in being an exhibitor, email Sofie Wachtmeister at sofiew@mote.org. For more information about the Boca Grande event, contact Ashley Hill at bocagrande@mote.org.

New technology to warn of red tide Forecasts for Karenia brevis red tides in the Gulf of Mexico have come a long way over the last decade. But one key to providing forecasts for every beach every day is the development of a new smartphone application that will use facial-recognition software to identify K. brevis in water samples right on the beach. The prototype connects a smartphone to a microscope, and then the image is pinched to zoom in on the water sample under the microscope. Currently, there are several reporting systems to alert the public about red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, and each has its own limitations. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Research Institute (FWRI) provides twice-weekly reports on red tide based on cell counts from water samples, but they can take several days to complete, delaying updates for the public. Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily Beach Conditions Reporting System (visitbeaches.org) provides subjective information about beach conditions and is not available for every beach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System (HAB-OFS) issues red tide advisories via bulletin, website and Beach Hazards Statements (issued through the National Weather Service). However, these reports typically cover county-wide geographic areas and are often not precise down to specific beaches. The code for the app is being written in Python and uses the OpenCV computer vision library, an open-source software platform. By using open-source code, Mote hopes that others will be able to take the tool that we’re developing to detect K. brevis blooms in the Gulf and use it to develop similar applications that look for other types of harmful algae, potentially protecting public health from other HABs in the Gulf and even in other regions of the country.