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Mote vet tech talks rescues, wild animal stress reduction

Rehabilitation and Medical Care Coordinator Lynne Byrd, who has worked for Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for 21 years, will speak at "Meet the Women of Mote."

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Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s founding director was Eugenie Clark, fondly remembered as the “Shark Lady.” In honor of her would-be 100th birthday and her legacy and research, Mote is putting the spotlight on some of Clark’s intelligent, dedicated and women who have followed her path in an upcoming three-part lecture series called “Meet the Women of Mote.”

Lynne Byrd is the rehabilitation and medical care coordinator. She’s one of three women, dubbed the “Ocean Crusaders,” who will be speaking on Sept. 14. The Longboat Observer spoke with Byrd to find out more about her background and rescue work.      


How long have you worked at Mote? 

I have worked at Mote for just over 21 years. I started at Mote in June of 2001.


Did you grow up in the area?

I grew up in a small beach town called Point Lookout in New York until middle school, then Ormond Beach, Florida through high school. I was always surrounded by the ocean.


Lynne Byrd has worked at Mote for 21 years. (Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium)
Lynne Byrd has worked at Mote for 21 years. (Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium)
How did you get started in this field?

I began my journey in the Florida Keys, volunteering at night during a mass stranding of pilot whales.


Why did you want to work at Mote?

Mote drew my attention back in the early 1990s, when they rehabbed and released a dolphin named Freeway. I really admired how the aquarium was built to showcase all the great work the researchers were doing.


Your experience cites a special emphasis on stress reduction. How do animals behave when stressed? 

Wild animals are resilient at hiding sickness and injuries. They think in a matter of survival of the fittest. However, you can look at overall respiration, heart rate and changes in behavior.


What is your most memorable rescue experience?

A dolphin named Ginger was one of my most memorable and most challenging dolphin rehabilitations. By the time Ginger was released in 2009, Mote volunteers and staff had spent 1,320 hours monitoring her condition along with rehabilitating this dolphin on an all-live fish diet because she refused to eat dead fish that we normally maintain our patients on. Ginger had eaten nearly 4,000 live pinfish. That’s 35 pinfish fed five times a day at about $1 per fish by the end of her release. Researchers continue to see Ginger to this day during monthly population monitoring surveys and know that she has had three calves as of December 2020.


What kind of work have you done with the local sea turtles on Longboat?

We rescue, rehabilitate and release various sea turtles of all life stages from hatchlings through adults. Connor is an example of a loggerhead turtle we rescued and released off Longboat Key. Mote is unique because our Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital can provide specialized care relating to turtle fibropapillomatosis, which is common in a lot of the turtles we treat.

Connor, a loggerhead turtle, was found and released on Longboat Key. (Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium)
Connor, a loggerhead turtle, was found and released on Longboat Key. (Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium)
How many sea turtles has Mote rescued?

Currently, most of the animals Mote treats are sea turtles. At this point, Mote has rehabilitated over 800 turtles, not including the yearly 2,000 hatchlings we treat.


How many cetaceans (whale, dolphin or porpoise) has Mote rescued? 



What will you be talking about during the virtual program? 

My background, how I got into the field and some of my career highlights thus far.




Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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