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The Lady and the Sharks:  The Cape Haze Connection to Mote Marine Laboratory

More than fifty years ago, the Vanderbilt family had the vision to found a small marine research station along the southwestern Florida coast.  This project became the lifework of Dr. Eugenie Clark (at right) and eventually grew into today's Mote Marine Laboratory.

In January 1955, Dr. Clark began work in Cape Haze on a parcel of Vanderbilt land located at the end of Gaspar Drive.  (Today, that land is owned by CHPOA members Marty and Kathy Rosen.)  The research lab's facilities included a 12-foot-by-20-foot building with a dock, and a 21-foot boat, named Dancer, in honor of Alfred G. Vanderbiltís favorite racing horse, Native Dancer.  Local fisherman Beryl Chadwick helped Dr. Clark catch her first sharks on January 26.  Specimen jars and a live shark pen began filling up, and curious local residents began stopping by on a regular basis. The Cape Haze Marine Lab was incorporated on June 13, 1955.

The National Science Foundation, impressed with the groundbreaking work being published by Dr. Clark, helped fund a move of the laboratory to Siesta Key near Sarasota in 1960.  In 1967, the Mote family assumed the role of the lab's primary financial sponsors from the Vanderbilt family.  At the same time the laboratory was expanded to pursue research in many other fields such as microbiology, ecology, and environmental health, among others, while continuing its studies of sharks.

In 1978, the Mote Marine Laboratory moved to its current location on City Island in Sarasota. The affiliated Mote Aquarium opened in 1980. Today, the laboratory employs a staff of 240, organized into seven research centers, with field stations on Pine Island, Summerland Key, and Key West, all supported by a fleet of modern research vessels.  From its humble beginnings all those years ago in Cape Haze, the laboratory has grown into a world-renowned source of oceanic research, greatly enriching our understanding of the marine environment.
 

 

  

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