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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2015 3 years ago

Conversation with Dr. Michael Crosby

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Dr. Michael Crosby became president and CEO of Mote in May 2013.
by: Kristen Herhold Community Editor

In May 2013, Dr. Michael Crosby became president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. Mote is celebrating its 60th year of research, and Dr. Crosby hopes to continue to grow the laboratory and aquarium into a worldwide institution.

What is your favorite part of Mote?

There are so many favorite parts. It’s like asking a parent which kid you like best. I like it all. There’s such diversity. If I had to pick one thing I feel the most reward in, it’s helping the wonderful family here at Mote. It’s about helping scientists retain independence and educators educating thousands of people every year. I love telling people about Sarasota’s best-kept secret. You cannot separate Mote from the community, or the community from Mote.

Mote is celebrating its 60th year. Where do you hope Mote will be in 60 more years?

Hitting the 60-year mark is just amazing. We’re focused on a shared vision for the future. In 60 years, I would hope and I fully expect Mote will be a thriving marine research institution, with impacts from the Sarasota Bay to the Antilles to the Persian Gulf and all over the world. But I hope we never lose our local connections. We came from a one-room shack of a lab. We must never forget where we came from as we expand our reach. All of our accomplishments are afforded by the strong philanthropic support we have that has been vital since day one. It’s all the support, and we can’t forget that 60 years from now.

How are the expansion plans going?

Great, because we’re bringing people together from different nations. It’s very rewarding. One piece is expanding our footprint around the world. Mote is never leaving Sarasota, but we’re expanding our impact around the world. That’s what we’re seeking to do. We’re about to break ground on an international center for coral reef restoration in the Florida Keys and we’re expanding our scope to every ocean around every continent in the world.

What are some upcoming plans and exhibits for Mote? There's rumbings of an upcoming otter exhibit.

There are exciting plans coming down the pipe, not only new scientists, but our exhibits, which continue to bring new community education opportunities. I can’t tell you our specific plans, but it’s very exciting.

How has Mote improved since you became CEO?

It’s not about me. It’s about the interaction between everybody at Mote. I accomplish nothing by myself at Mote. Mote is a family and for an individual to say they accomplished something alone would be presumptuous. In the past year, we’ve hired five more PhD scientists, and we hope to expand to 45 by 2020. We’ve added a new research program on coral health and diseases. All are exciting things we’ve accomplished together. It’s all about the vision for the future. We must achieve that together.

Do you have a favorite marine animal?

I love the butterfly fish. It’s pretty interesting, but I like working with oysters  and coral reefs. The ocean is full of interesting species. It’s very hard to pick one. My favorite species is the ocean as a whole.

What Mote events are your favorite?

We have a number of different events that are very diverse. We have things everybody in the community can be engaged with. We have Party on the Pass, Oceanic Evening, which is a spectacular, wonderful black tie celebration, and we have other grassroots community events, like the restoration of scallops in the Sarasota Bay. I’d have to say the one event that’s most important to me is our work with combat-wounded veterans in the Florida Keys. They sacrificed so much for our country and they have a new mission of restoring our coral reefs. It’s just wonderful to have these men and women doing this. It’s most rewarding.

How did it feel to have TripAdvisor rank Mote as the fifth best aquarium in the U.S. and 15th best in the world?

It felt great to be ranked the best aquarium in Florida, fifth in the nation and 15th in the world. It’s directly due to this community’s support and the wonderful aquarists. We have more than 1,000 volunteers who are the reason we’re ranked. This community should be proud of Mote because this community created Mote. It’s the jewel of Sarasota and southwest Florida.

What about Mote are you most proud?

I feel blessed I’m able to be in this leadership role here. it’s a wonderful, wonderful institution, and people here are wonderful and passionate about what they do. We have great pride in our community, and our community has great pride in us. I’m very proud.

How did you become involved with Mote?

I came here five years ago as senior vice president for research. At the time, I was at the University of Hawaii as the vice chancellor for research. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I was very, very fortunate to get that position. When Dr. Kumar Mahadevan retired in 2013, I was appointed by the board of trustees to be the new CEO.

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