Summer In The City

Guest Correspondence


Even during the summer in the city, Sarasota's Lido Key continues to be one of the most interesting geographies on the Gulf Coast. At its center is the unique, John Ringling inspired, St. Armand's circle. Beautifully landscaped, filled with quality shops, dining establishments and dotted with Ringling sculptures, it is one of America's most unique business districts.

Just a mile away one can transition from the commercial world and enter the world of nature and the deep blue sea. Head north from St. Armand’s Circle and in minutes you will be to City Island and Ken Thompson Park, which has been the longtime home to the Mote Marine Science Laboratory and aquarium.

Founded in 1955, Mote was recruited to City Island by Sarasota's leaders in 1978 and is now one of 130 marine laboratories in the United States. Mote has evolved to become one of America's leading, independent marine laboratories, by combining marine science research, with public education and public outreach. 200,000 visitors per year continue to visit Mote's modest aquarium where over 100 marine species are on display. The Mote science campus employs over 200 including over 30 PhDs and is supported by over 1,000 dedicated volunteers.

As one of America's leading research institutions studying red tide, ocean acidification and coral reef restoration, Mote's presence has benefitted our community and area wildlife in many ways and all one has to do to see examples is to circle back from Motes campus, to Lido Beach.

Lido beach is especially interesting this time of year. Walking north on Lido Beach from the pavilion area one can observe the increasing number of sea turtle nests which have been marked for protection with sticks and orange screening by Mote volunteers. This ongoing effort is helping preserve the loggerhead sea turtle population. The public is supportive of the effort to protect the sea turtle nesting areas as the eggs prepare to hatch each fall as Sarasotans root for the thousands of sea turtle hatchlings to return to the Gulf and survive.

Even more interesting are the sea bird nesting areas on Lido that are cordoned off by Mote and the Audubon Society volunteers to protect the sea bird nesting areas. Lido has one of the largest concentrations of Black Skimmers in the state. This threatened species, with their long wing spans, orange webbed feet, and orange and black bills, miraculously skim the water’s surface, bills open, for food. Between rest and skimming they often put on daring, Blue Angel quality air shows with synchronized, rapid climbs, dives and swoops above the water’s edge, teaching their youth to frolic as they fly. It is a fun, inspiring and fascinating scene. It may be summer in the city but some of Satasota’s best nature shows are now underway, and they remain free to this day.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. Email him at

Photo: Skimmer and baby.

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