Founded by Dr. Eugenie Clark in 1955 in Placida, Florida, Mote Marine Laboratory was known as Cape Haze Marine Laboratory until its 1967 renaming in honor of William R. Mote, his wife Lenore and his sister, Betty Mote Rose (major benefactors of the Laboratory).
Mote's early research was focused on sharks. Since 1960, Mote has been based in Sarasota, Florida, and since 1978 it has been located on City Island.
Mote Marine Laboratory celebrated its 55th Anniversary during 2010. The Lab was recognized for its 55 years of marine science with a resolution in the Florida House and Senate in March 2010.
As of winter 2009/2010, Mote employs over 200 staff members conducting research on sharks, red tide and other environmental toxins, marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, fisheries, coastal ecology and aquaculture (sustainable fish farming).
Since 1978 the Laboratory has expanded to include a 10.5-acre campus in Sarasota, with field stations and public exhibits in Key West, field stations in Summerland Key and Charlotte Harbor and Mote Aquaculture Research Park in eastern Sarasota County.
Florida's extensive coastline and marine and estuarine environments have enabled Mote scientists to build a platform of marine research conducted in the near shore environment.
Mote Aquarium is the public outreach arm of Mote Marine Laboratory, displaying more than 100 marine species with a focus on local marine life. The Aquarium opened in 1980 on City Island in Sarasota Bay. Visitors can see sharks, manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, seahorses, rays, skates and invertebrates. Mote Aquarium also includes windows into Mote's working laboratories.
New exhibits at Mote Aquarium created in 2009 include the Seahorse Conservation Laboratory, which displays baby seahorses that Mote staff are raising for other aquariums throughout the United States, and Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors - an exhibit with live sea turtles and displays highlighting the sea turtle conservation and research at Mote. The Aquarium now also has narrated shark feedings, in which large sharks are trained to go to specific targets for a food reward.