Mote Announces New Postdoctoral Researchers

Mote Marine Laboratory is proud to announce the arrival of Dr. Andrea M. Larsen and Dr. Emily Smith — two outstanding additions to the world-class marine science and public outreach efforts central to Mote's guiding blueprint, the 2020 Vision and Strategic Plan. (Read the Plan at http://mote.org/about-us.)

  • Dr. Andrea M. Larsen was awarded a Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to study the relationship between fish and bacteria — a key topic for understanding fish health in the wild and in seafood farming.

    Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellowships support postdoctoral scientists conducting outstanding work early in their careers. These fellowships are a central part of Mote’s mission to foster the next generation of leading marine scientists. (Learn more here.)

    Larsen earned her doctorate in Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences from Auburn University in Alabama and completed an exciting 2013 study that helped shape her research focus. Her results suggested that the types of bacteria found on fish may depend more on fish species than location. For example, fish of the same species in Alabama and Mississippi were closer matches for their bacteria than fish of different species within the same state. 

    At Mote, Larsen aims to further study bacteria associated with fish and their potential roles in the function of the fish immune system. This research will support the search for probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that specifically boost health for particular fish species raised in aquaculture, or seafood farming — a fast-growing source of food around the globe.

    “Many people associate bacteria with disease because that’s what we’re taught as children, but current research is revealing new ways bacteria are helpful or even necessary for good health — and I see exciting potential for expanding this knowledge looking at fish,” Larsen said. “When I heard I would have the opportunity to perform this research as a Mote Postdoctoral Fellow, my heart jumped.”
    Larsen has presented her work at multiple scientific and professional meetings, including the annual meetings of the American Society for Microbiology, and she has a strong focus on forging collaborations with scientists and professionals in multiple disciplines.
     
  • Dr. Emily Smith, research associate for Mote’s Environmental Health Program, will apply her expertise in marine science and education to improve public information about Florida red tide.

    Florida red tide is a type of harmful algal bloom that impacts the health and economies of coastal communities around the Gulf.

    Smith, who holds bachelor’s degrees in Marine Biology and Biology Education, along with a master’s degree in Education, taught science to middle schoolers and later earned her doctorate in Oceanography from Louisiana State University (LSU) with a research dissertation on harmful algal blooms. At LSU, Smith was the President and Social Chair of the Coast and Environment Graduate Organization, President of the Graduate Student Association and a Graduate School Senator in LSU Student Government. She received LSU’s Graduate Student Leader of the Year in 2013.

    At Mote, Smith will advance the crucial public outreach of Mote’s Environmental Health Program — including Mote’s Beach Conditions Report, which provides daily updates on red tide conditions at multiple Florida beaches. In early 2015, Smith will complete her work at Mote, help appoint the long-term leader for the Lab’s Environmental Health Program and begin a prestigious Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, D.C.

    Smith stepped in to chart the future course for Mote’s Environmental Health Program after its long-time manager, Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, accepted a position as Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ocean Observing System (GCOOS). GCOOS is a nonprofit with members around the Gulf, including Mote, that is dedicated to building a sustained ocean observing system to provide vital data related on climate, red tide, human health and numerous other factors. (Read a press release about Kirkpatrick’s new role: http://gcoos.tamu.edu/?p=6516)

    Mote scientists have studied Florida red tide for decades to understand how these blooms of the harmful algae Karenia brevis develop and affect animals and people — particularly those with respiratory ailments who are sensitive to red tide toxins. During Kirkpatrick’s successful leadership, Mote’s Environmental Health Program and its partners broke new ground in their field, in particular through a decade-long study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that led to hundreds of new findings and even potential new drug treatments for cystic fibrosis and COPD sufferers.

    “I am excited to move forward with this great program, which has done so much to reveal the interactions between red tide and people,” Smith said. “I believe that we, as scientists, must be skilled communicators to support public health and safety during naturally occurring challenges like Florida red tide. In fact, one of the best ways to mitigate red tide impacts is to provide real-time monitoring information and education to communities. That mission means a great deal to me.”