VP SUPPORTS MOTE MARINE LABORATORY IN RESPONSE TO GULF OIL SPILL

KEY WEST, FL (May 28, 2010) With the British Petroleum oil spill threatening the Florida Keys, VP Racing Fuels will be supporting a response coordinated by Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory according to Sandi Burns, wife of VP Racing Fuels President Steve Burns.   The Co-Chairperson of Mote’s Florida Keys Advisory Board, Ms. Burns confirmed VP will donate $5,000 toward the effort.

A nonprofit organization f ounded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is dedicated to “advancing the science of the sea. ”   The laboratory is located in Sarasota, FL, with field stations and public exhibits in Sarasota County, Key West and other locations around the Florida coast. 

In response to the Gulf oil spill, Mote staff this week successfully deployed an unmanned submarine, "Waldo," roughly 40 miles west of Key West to start taking baseline samples and to detect any traces of oil, dispersants, or surfactants entering the waters near the Keys over the next 2-3 weeks. The purpose is to establish a baseline to gauge impacts and estimate any potential damage.   This action was prompted by lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez incident, where insufficient scientific data prior to the spill led to an inadequate basis for assessing adequate clean up and response damages for the impacted area.

The robot, called an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) looks like a yellow torpedo and reports back data in real time about every 4 hrs.   Short of sending researchers out in boats to physically take water samples, this is the only way to tell what's happening under the water's surface, said Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote's Phytoplankton Ecology Program.

"There are really large issues at stake for us here in Florida," Kirkpatrick said. "It's not logistically possible to have humans in boats covering these wide areas, constantly looking for signs of the oil spill coming toward our shores. But we have these great robots that can do this 24 hours a day for three weeks in a row, so it's important we use these tools."   If the AUVs encounter oil, Mote can alert resource managers so they can act to protect important ecological resources and shorelines.

"The impact from this spill is going to be tremendous and as the response progresses, the need for funding to understand the impact is going to be great.” said Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, president of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. Jason Wolf, Florida Keys Development Officer for Mote Marine Laboratory, added, ”For VP Racing Fuels and others who have donated to Mote's Oil Emergency Fund, we cannot thank you enough as it will allow us to proactively respond to any impacts on our coral reefs, coastlines, fisheries, and marine animals.”

Individuals can make donations to Mote's Oil Spill Emergency Fund online at www.mote.org/oildonation.

Mote’s Florida Keys Advisory Board is in the Florida Keys where Mote's Center for Coral Research is located.   The Center is growing coral in the lab and in the wild for the restoration of coral reefs.  Its work is funded largely by Florida's Protect Our Reefs specialty license plate
program, science and research grants, and private donations.

Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages. Beginning with its founding in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory has had a long history of remarkable milestones. Mote has demonstrated sharks’ ability to learn, analyzed sharks’ resistance to cancer, created and overseen what is today the world’s longest-running study of wild dolphins, performed comprehensive studies of manatees and sea turtles, worked to understand red tide, its toxins and how they affect marine animals and humans, studied and helped protect coastal watersheds, taken a leading role in marine restocking studies, made enormous breakthroughs in recirculating water systems for aquaculture and begun unlocking the mysteries of coral disease in new ways.

Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages. Beginning with its founding in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory has had a long history of remarkable milestones. Mote has demonstrated sharks’ ability to learn, analyzed sharks’ resistance to cancer, created and overseen what is today the world’s longest-running study of wild dolphins, performed comprehensive studies of manatees and sea turtles, worked to understand red tide, its toxins and how they affect marine animals and humans, studied and helped protect coastal watersheds, taken a leading role in marine restocking studies, made enormous breakthroughs in recirculating water systems for aquaculture and begun unlocking the mysteries of coral disease in new ways.