Staff recruitment & nurturing

Return to 2020 Annual Report index


Mote is dedicated to nurturing the best and the brightest minds marine science and technology fields—a key priority in our Beyond 2020 Vision and Strategic Plan. Mote offers the following awards and fellowships—made possible by philanthropic support—to deserving members of its research staff. Below each award is a list of this year’s recipients.

Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

These three-year fellowships provide 100% salary support, research start-up, supplies, equipment and mentorship to postdoctoral scientists conducting outstanding work early in their careers

New in 2020:

  • Dr. Hanna Koch received her doctorate in 2016 from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany. She is located full-time at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3) on Summerland Key, where she is working to build a new research program focused on coral sexual propagation as a significant component in Mote’s larger coral restoration initiative. Her primary mentor is Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Erinn Muller.
  • Dr. Jake Lasala received his doctorate in 2018 from Florida Atlantic University and is located full-time at Mote’s City Island, Sarasota, campus. He is working to build a new sea turtle research program focused on how sea turtles utilize habitats and adapt to local and global environmental shifts. His co-mentors are Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Kevan Main and Mote Senior Scientist Emeritus Dr. Ernie Estevez.
  • Dr. Aileen Maldonado received her doctorate in 2015 from University of California, Riverside, and is located full-time at Mote’s City Island, Sarasota, campus. She is working  to build a new ecotoxicology research program focused on impacts of climate change and pollution on marine and estuarine organisms, and her primary mentor is Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Rich Pierce.

Previous Fellowship recipients who continued for all or part of 2020:

  • Dr. Rob Nowicki (Sharks & Rays Conservation Research Program)
  • Dr. Phil Gravinese (Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program)

Mote Scholarly and Service Awards

These two-year awards provide 25% salary support for conducting scholarly and service activities that further the mission of Mote and are consistent with Mote's Beyond 2020 Vision:

New awardees in 2020:

  • Dr. Jim Locascio, Manager of the Fisheries Habitat Ecology & Acoustics Program
  • Dr. Vince Lovko, Manager of the Phytoplankton Ecology Program
  • Dr. Kevan Main, Manager of the Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program and Associate Vice President for Research in the Directorate of Fisheries & Aquaculture
  • Dr. Nicole Rhody, Staff Scientist in the Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program
  • Dr. Tracy Sherwood, Staff Scientist in the Environmental Laboratory for Forensics
  • Dr. Andrea Tarnecki, Staff Scientist in the Marine Immunology Program
  • Dr. Dana Wetzel, Manager of the Environmental Laboratory for Forensics

Previous awardees who continued for all or part of 2020:

  • Dr. Nate Brennan, Staff Scientist in the Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program
  • Dr. Tracy Fanara, Manager of the Environmental Health Research Program
  • Dr. Emily Hall, Manager of the Ocean Acidification Program and the Chemical & Physical Ecology Program
  • Dr. Bob Hueter, Director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research and Manager of the Sharks & Rays Conservation Research Program

Mote Eminent Scholar Awards

These three-year awards provide 50% salary coverage to Mote Senior Scientists who have great potential to significantly advance a current research initiative or develop a new research initiative consistent with Mote's Beyond 2020 Vision, and which will help ensure the long-term prosperity of Mote's overall research enterprise:

New awardee in 2020:

  • Dr. Erinn Muller, Manager of the Coral Health & Disease Research Program and the Coral Reef Restoration Program

Previous awardee continuing in 2020:

  • Dr. Cynthia Heil, Director of the Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory


Mote staff achieve more each year than 100 annual reports could describe. Here are just a few examples of the ways Mote staff were leaders in their local, state, national or international communities this year.

  • Mote’s Assistant Vice President for Education, Aly Busse, leads multiple Mote efforts to help people from diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented minority students, excel in marine science. This year Sarasota Magazine honored Busse’s leadership by presenting her with the Unity Award. Busse was also named Chair of the National Association of Marine Laboratories’ new Education Committee—where she will help Mote spearhead improved strategies for educational excellence at marine science nonprofits across the nation.
  • Mote's MarSci-LACE Project Coordinator, Jasmin Graham, works to support underrepresented minorities in marine science in multiple ways. In addition to her leadership roles within MarSci-LACE (a center of excellence at Mote described here), she serves as President & CEO of a separate nonprofit organization, Minorities in Shark Science, and she partnered with Mote colleagues and others to bring #BlackinMarineScienceWeek to Mote’s audiences with an empowerment panel event featuring Black marine scientists.
  • Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Emily Hall undertook a new leadership role this year, as Principal Investigator for the Mote-FWC Cooperative Red Tide Research Program. She continued to serve as Director of the Science Working Group for the Southeastern Coastal Acidification Network (SOCAN), which is focused on facilitating research and discussion to address coastal and ocean acidification impacts in the U.S. Southeast. 
  • Ross Johnston, a Marine Science Virtual Learning Education Specialist at Mote, was a finalist for the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Sarasota Young Professionals Group, a program of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
  • Mote Public Relations Manager Stephannie Kettle won a Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) award for developing a media and communications training for Mote staff, and she was appointed to the Board of the Central West Coast Chapter of FPRA.
  • Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Erinn Muller participated in two U.S. congressional briefings at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to inform federal elected officials about coral reef conservation and restoration. She shared knowledge derived from Mote’s key roles in massive efforts to survey and restore Florida’s Coral Reefs with the goal of addressing the devastating outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease.
  • Mote Staff Scientist Carole Neidig was invited to be a member of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) Technology Integration for Fishery-Dependent Data Working Group (WGTIFD). She gave a presentation on efforts to further fisheries electronic monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico, an effort she is leading through the Center for Fisheries Electronic Monitoring at Mote (CFEMM). She was also invited to represent Gulf and South Atlantic Regions EM programs to members of congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. 
  • Mote Staff Scientist Dr. Nicole Rhody continued a vital, international leadership role she began in 2016: Chair of the Student Activities Committee for the World Aquaculture Society, which has members in about 100 countries.
  • Dr. Ryan Schloesser, a former Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellow turned Staff Scientist, advanced to the role of Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program Manager this year, with the mentorship of Mote Senior Scientist and past Program Manager Dr. Ken Leber, who was preparing to retire in the coming fiscal year after decades of successful fisheries science at Mote.