Florida Keys

Mote's Summerland Key lab to undergo $5.1 million expansion

David Vaughan, executive director of the Mote Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key, looks over coral growing in a tank.
David Vaughan, executive director of the Mote Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key, looks over coral growing in a tank. KeysInfoNet

Mote Marine Laboratory, which operates a Summerland Key research facility that specializes in restoration of the coral reef, will have five new laboratories to conduct research when its $5.1 million expansion is scheduled to open near the end of 2016.

Sarasota-based Mote announced the plans during its 60th anniversary celebration Feb. 19 at the Galleon Resort and Marina on Front Street in Key West.

David Vaughan, executive director of the Keys research facility, said the current space packs in about 30 to 40 different scientists.

"They're all trying to do different things in the same space," Vaughan said. "We're breaking the [new] labs specific to the components."

Labs would cater to areas including water chemistry, microbiology and coral health, which all tie in to coral reef restoration.

Besides the work spaces, Vaughan said the facility, more than 15,000 square feet, will include dormitory-style housing for about 50 scientists, two large classrooms and office space. Mote currently has housing for about 30 scientists.

Vaughan said Mote will be without housing for a year during construction. He hopes to find something in the community for visiting scientists — which could prove tough in the high-priced Keys.

Mote President Michael P. Crosby said the current infrastructure is almost 50 years old and "buckling at the seams for space."

"The need for new facilities is urgent," Crosby said in a statement.

Vaughan said the plan is to break ground sometime between September and December. Mote plans for the new building to be Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, certified by the U.S. Green Business Council.

Vaughan said the new facility will mean more jobs and public lectures. "We have the demand now; we're actually having to turn people away."

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