Applications open in January.
Mote Marine Laboratory is offering research-based internship opportunities for undergraduate students designed to provide hands-on opportunities to conduct scientific research under the mentorship of Mote scientists. Students gain experience in scientific research, science communication and may attend research seminars and workshops on career skills. The experience gained through a Mote research internship will enhance both the knowledge and experience needed for entry-level employment as well as graduate studies within related fields. The Mote REU Program is modeled from the NSF REU Program and offers paid research training experiences in marine science during a 10-week period between May and August. The goal of this program is to increase participation of underserved, underrepresented groups in marine STEM including underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, persons with disabilities, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, are strongly encouraged to apply. (Underrepresented minorities are African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders.)
- U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. or its territories.
- Currently enrolled* in a degree program (full-time or part-time) leading to a baccalaureate degree.
- First-time REU participants. If you have already completed an NSF REU internship, you will not be considered for the program.
- Available for the full duration of the program, from May 24 - August 1, 2020.
Student participants will:
- Be involved in scientific research projects under the direction of a Mote scientist.
- Gain experience in planning and implementing research through involvement in on-going research projects.
- Gain experience in scientific writing by completing a "manuscript-style" final research experience report.
- Present a final poster or presentation.
- Attend scientific research seminars presented by graduate students, post-docs or scientists from Mote, government agencies or universities.
- Learn about opportunities for graduate study, careers in marine science, and communication skills in science by participating in student workshops.
Stipends, travel and housing information
Students participating in the Mote REU Program receive:
- Earn a stipend over a 10 week period ranging from $5000-$6000. *Stipend amount will be confirmed upon acceptance notification.
- Free housing in a local dormitory.
- Financial support for travel expenses between Mote and their home institution.
Note: Provided dorms are approximately 5 miles from Mote’s campus. Bringing a car is highly recommended but public transportation between Mote and most local areas is available through the Sarasota County Area Transit bus system. Interns are responsible for providing or making arrangements for daily transportation to Mote.
Mote REU Application Process
Applicants must complete the online application form (link to application will be available once application is open). Select the Mote REU application and upload a one-to-two page Statement of Interest, a resume or CV, and unofficial transcript. Applicants must also request a letter of recommendation, which must be uploaded directly by his/her recommender. More detailed instructions for preparing and submitting these materials are provided on the application page.
Research Programs and Participating Mentors
Benthic Ecology- Jim Culter
Benthic Ecology is the study communities that live on the bottom of freshwater, salt water, and estuary environments. Our laboratory focuses primarily on Sarasota Bay and Gulf of Mexico. Mote’s benthic ecology laboratory has an aquaculture system, focused on shellfish restoration, and the lab continually works to rear bivalve larvae and adults for research and conservation efforts in Sarasota Bay. Mote REU student(s) selected for this summer will take on projects that will aid our Bivalve Restoration Initiative. Especially important are defining parameters of optimal habitat requirements and focusing on causes of mortality in Sarasota Bay for survival of the southern quahog (Mercenaria campechiensis) for long-term restoration efforts. These studies may include the effects of the red tide causing organism Karenia Brevis.
Chemical Ecology- Dr. Emily Hall
The Chemical Ecology Program uses advanced analytical techniques to investigate all aspects of water quality in lakes, rivers, estuaries and the coastal marine environment. Ongoing projects include evaluation of water quality in relation to harmful algal blooms and evaluation of nutrients in relation to water quality regulations. Interns assist with field collection of samples, data entry and laboratory analysis of water quality parameters. College students with chemistry laboratory coursework and computer experience preferred.
Coral Health and Disease- Dr. Erinn Muller (Sarasota, FL)
The Coral Health and Disease Program focuses on understanding the susceptibility and resilience of corals to major global threats such as climate change, ocean acidification and disease as well as local impacts. Specifically, coral disease is one of the greatest threats to reefs around the world and disease dynamics within our oceans are still poorly understood. Projects within this program will be laboratory and/or computer based and may include wetlab exposure experiments as well as molecular applications. Daily duties will include care and maintenance of wetlab space and participation in currently funded research projects. Laboratory assays may include DNA extractions, PCR, photophysiology, and morphometric analyses of coral health states. Prefer students familiar with command-driven computer programs such as R and have basic biological statistics skills. Additionally, interns may be asked to participate in education/outreach activities within our program as needed.
Coral Health and Disease- Dr. Abigail Clark (Summerland Key, FL)
Coral reefs are exposed to myriad stressors including rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. As marine conditions change at an unprecedented rate, it is more important than ever to determine the effect that a changing climate has on coral reefs. The REU intern will work closely with Mote staff to assess the photobiological and physiological performance of corals in response to elevated sea surface temperatures. The objective of this project will be to test for heat tolerance in coral with an emphasis on assisted gene flow dynamics. Ultimately, we hope to evaluate population-level responses of coral to thermal stress. Daily tasks will include animal husbandry, maintenance of experiment (e.g., cleaning tanks, monitoring water quality and responses of coral), thorough recordkeeping, and data entry. Lifting heavy objects (up to 50 lbs.) will be regularly required. The intern will be trained to measure metabolism, growth, and photochemical efficiency of corals. There will be several opportunities for professional and academic development.
Coral Reproduction- Dr. Hannah Koch (Summerland Key, FL)
A major concern regarding the persistence of corals reefs in the face of climate change is whether stony corals can keep pace with unprecedented rates of environmental change. Better understanding the mechanisms underlying resistance and tolerance traits is important for being able to evaluate the adaptive potential of a population or species and harnessing the sexual cycle of corals allows access to a greater number of propagules and thus genetic diversity. Therefore, the objective of this research project is to investigate the genetic basis (heritability) of disease resistance in the threatened species, Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral), by performing intraspecific controlled crosses and mesocosm experiments. Components of this project include fieldwork (diving and snorkeling), wet lab (fertilization, larval propagation, disease exposure and physiology assays), coral husbandry (larval settlement and sexual recruit rearing), dry lab (molecular analyses), and computer work (data entry and analysis). The overall goal of this work is to assist and accelerate naturally-occurring evolutionary processes for enhancing certain traits of interest and advancing resilience-based coral reef restoration strategies.
Another important part of this research deals with coral sexual propagation for the purpose of resilience-based restoration. This may involve setting up and maintaining in situ spawning nurseries, conducting in situ assessments of sexual maturation and spawning potential of restored populations, setting up and running an ex situ spawning induction system, performing fecundity analyses, and working with different coral species and reproductive modes.
This work is based at the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration (IC2R3) on Summerland Key, Florida. Interested interns may have a discrete skillset (e.g. coral husbandry) and assist with a specific portion of the project or a broad skillset (e.g. field and lab experience) and be involved with multiple aspects. Interested divers should preferably be AAUS certified. This project will include working under difficult field conditions (i.e. night operations during coral spawning), as well as occasional long days and weekends. Interns will become familiar with scientific literature, evolutionary concepts, experimental design, data analysis software, as well as have the opportunity to gain professional development in the form of written/oral communication and graduate school preparation.
Coral Restoration- Dr. Erinn Muller (Summerland Key, FL)
Mote's Coral Restoration Program focuses on large-scale propagation of corals in a land-based nursery to support ongoing research and restoration. Most of the work conducted by interns at the land-based coral culture facility involves daily coral husbandry (handling coral fragments to remove algae and other fouling organisms) and basic aquaculture maintenance duties (cleaning tanks and seawater systems). However, duties may also include hands-on propagation of corals using Mote's "micro-fragmentation" technique, and assisting with experiments aimed at improving propagation methods. Depending on the time of year and the participants experience with prior fieldwork, participants may have the opportunity to assist staff with transplanting corals to restoration sites during outplanting efforts, or observe staff during monitoring of previously outplanted corals.
Coral Reef Ecological Processes- Dr. Rob Nowicki (Summerland Key, FL)
The Coral Reef Ecological Processes internship is a new internship that provides broad, hands on training in the lab and field relating to the ecology of coral reef fauna communities. This internship will be located at the brand-new Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3) in Summerland Key, Florida. Internships are available year-round.
The overarching goal of the CREP program is to better understand the processes that occur and structure coral reef communities. This internship includes extensive field and lab components, and focuses more on consumers that live on coral reefs than corals themselves. Current and potential projects include investigating the role of connectivity between seagrasses and coral reefs in shaping reef fish communities, better understanding the relationships between herbivorous fish and reef algae, evaluating the effectiveness of natural processes in controlling invasive lionfish predators, and re-establishing long-term shark fishing datasets for the lower keys.
Interns who are selected for this program will gain hands on experience on a variety of areas, including reef fish ID, construction of research field gear, experimental design, data processing and management, and more. Some interns will undertake regular SCUBA diving to monitor experimental sites; as such, AAUS certification (or the capability to get it) is required for these positions. Daily tasks will vary, but may include maintenance of experimental aquaria, construction of artificial seagrass units, gut content analysis, and fieldwork. A major responsibility will be analyzing and processing video reef survey data collected in the field. There may be opportunities for occasional forays into other research programs occurring at IC2R3, as circumstances allow.
While many of the internship responsibilities will be directly related to data collection and processing, detailed mentoring regarding experimental design, statistical methods, and best practices for undertaking ecological research will also be provided. This includes training with reading, writing, and presenting research if interested. Interns will therefore complete the internship with a well-rounded experience encompassing most of the research “process”, from design and construction of experiments and surveys to analysis of results.
Crustacean Ecology- Dr. Philip Gravinese
The Crustacean Ecology internship provide hands-on research experience on the behavior and ecology of coastal crustaceans (primarily stone crabs) with the majority of work occurring in a laboratory setting at Mote Laboratory in Sarasota. The goal of the crustacean ecology program is to identify the behavioral responses and tolerances of different life stages (embryo’s, larvae, post-larvae, and juveniles) to various anthropogenic stressors that may include elevated but not limited to temperature, ocean acidification, or hypoxia. We are also interested in determining the crustacean responses to other stressors like red tide which will involve gaining some ecotoxicology experimental experience.
These internships are available for the summer and fall seasons. Interns who apply to this program will gain experience in the set-up and daily maintenance of a variety of experimental systems that are designed to precisely manipulate various anthropogenic stressors within coastal habitats. Interns will also be responsible for raising crustacean larvae to juvenile stages for use in a variety of experiments, and will also gain experience in various aquaculture practices. Daily tasks will include water chemistry sampling, maintenance of brood stock, animal husbandry, and maintaining larval rearing systems.
Most of this research is experimental and conducted under controlled laboratory conditions; however, there will be opportunities for zooplankton and animal collection in the field. The intern will also gain critical experience in experimental design, experimental system set-up, and data organization. Interns that are interested in data entry and analysis will have opportunities to learn a variety of statistical techniques during the internship. Additional skills interns may learn include larval identification and measurements. Interns interested in contributing toward manuscript preparation will also gain valuable experience in this essential skill.
Environmental Health- Dr. Tracy Fanara
The Environmental Health Program combines research with public outreach through investigating how human activities impact the environment, how environmental toxins impact human health, and the development of strategies to alleviate those impacts. Research focused interns will be working on water and air quality studies, as well as assisting with on-going, integrated, projects related to red tide and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Past interns have worked on stormwater treatment technologies, pilot studies on environmental impacts on HABs, hydrological modeling, and outreach efforts.
Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement- Dr. Ryan Schloesser
The Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement internship provides research experience on the ecology of estuarine fishes (primarily snook) using a combination of laboratory techniques and field sampling in Sarasota Bay. Field sampling activities apply quantified stratified sampling with seine nets, monitoring of water quality and habitat features, and maintenance of our PIT tag antenna arrays. The goal of the field sampling is to recapture wild and hatchery-reared fishes that were tagged with coded-wire tags, PIT tags, and elastomers. Laboratory activities include processing recaptured specimens and their otoliths for life-history information, primarily age and growth. Interns interested in data entry and analysis will have the opportunity to learn a variety of linear modeling and statistical techniques. Interns may also have the opportunity to contribute to research projects at the Mote Aquaculture Park and gain experience in animal husbandry with the Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture program.
Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture- Dr. Nicole Rhody
The Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture internship focuses on improving culture techniques for a variety of high-value marine and freshwater species while developing new, innovative and cost-effective technologies for land-based aquaculture systems. Presently, research is being conducted with corals as well as a variety of finfish including snook, pompano, red drum and sturgeon. We have also begun creating inland fisheries with catadromous fish species (e.g. common snook) stocked in inland ponds.
Program participants are involved in all aspects of applied aquaculture, including husbandry; live-food culture; nutrition; health management; construction and maintenance of recycle systems; and occasional field sampling. Field sampling activities may include quantified stratified sampling with seines, tagging and recapture of wild and hatchery-reared animals (e.g. with coded-wire tags, PIT tags, elastomers and genetic tags) and monitoring of water quality and various features of the habitats. Our research is primarily focused on snook, redfish and tarpon. Please note the majority of research activities are carried out at the Mote Aquaculture Park (MAP); a satellite site located in eastern Sarasota County, Florida, approximately 17 miles from the main laboratory. Interns must have their own transportation to/from this location since Sarasota's public transportation system does not extend to the Park.
Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Investigations- Gretchen Lovewell
This program provides response to reports of marine mammal and sea turtle strandings 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Our response area is within the coastal waters of central southwest Florida. The program offers logistical support and assistance to state biologists in the verification, rescue and recovery of sick, injured or dead manatees. Live and dead cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and sea turtles are rescued and/or recovered and transported to Mote for rehabilitation or detailed post-mortem examination.
Interns will assist in responding to stranding calls, documenting stranding events and collecting samples and data. Interns will also assist researchers and program staff with other projects, such as sample processing, assisting in the Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Osteological Collection and general maintenance of stranding equipment. This position will involve both laboratory and field work assisting in the recovery and examination live and dead stranded animals. The majority of stranded animals reported are dead, beach-cast animals. Stranding response often occurs after hours and weekends, so interns should be prepared to work outside of normal business hours. Basic skills required are the ability to work independently, lift 50 pounds comfortably, follow procedural instructions and collect and record detailed information. Field and laboratory work will involve strenuous working conditions, including working in close proximity to and assisting with the sampling of large dead animals.
Marine Microbiology- Dr. Andrea Tarnecki
Dr. Tarnecki’s research focuses on the relationship between marine bacteria and their hosts. Her primary goal is to decipher the complex interactions between an organism’s microbiome, i.e. community of associated microorganisms, and host health. Students working with Dr. Tarnecki will learn various microbiological techniques including culture media preparation, bacterial culture maintenance, aseptic technique, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Students will explore culture-based and molecular methods to gain a deeper understanding of the activities of beneficial bacteria and how they contribute to marine animal health. Students will be primarily based on Mote Marine Laboratory’s Aquaculture Research Park where they will also have the opportunity to be involved in aspects of applied aquaculture including husbandry, live-food culture, nutrition, health management, and maintenance of recirculating aquaculture systems. Mote Aquaculture Park (MAP); a satellite site located in eastern Sarasota County, Florida, approximately 17 miles from the main laboratory. Interns must have their own transportation to/from this location since Sarasota's public transportation system does not extend to the Park.
Ocean Acidification- Dr. Emily Hall
The Ocean Acidification Program focuses on effects of changes in ocean pH levels and other variables (such as temperature and nutrient concentration) on organisms found in marine, costal, and estuarine ecosystems (coral reefs, seagrass beds, rocky reefs, etc.) and is comprised of a number of research focuses. Interns in the OA Program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota will be working with Dr. Emily R. Hall on carbonate chemistry, animal physiology, water quality, experimental design and setup of an ocean acidification testing facility. This internship will be located at the ocean acidification testing facility (OASys) at the main lab in Sarasota, Florida and is available year-round and will last three months, with possibility of an extension. Research activities vary depending on current and future projects but may include setting up and maintaining indoor tank experiments in an ocean acidification experimental system, conducting field surveys via snorkel or SCUBA, sampling seawater chemistry in coastal ecosystems via boat or kayak, and analyzing seawater samples in the laboratory. Interns will become familiar with scientific literature and data analysis software programs and gain experience in preparation of scientific manuscripts. College students with chemistry laboratory experience preferred. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, with occasional long hours and weekends.
Phytoplankton Ecology- Dr. Vince Lovko
The Phytoplankton Ecology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory is also quite diverse. It is comprised of two groups, the biology group and the technology group. The biology group focuses on the physiology and ecology of phytoplankton. The technology group focuses on developing better equipment to support the study of phytoplankton. Recently, much of the work has addressed the harmful alga that impacts Florida, the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. One of the primary objectives of the biology group is to discover how K. brevis fits into the succession of micro-algal species on the west coast of Florida. We hope that this understanding will help us determine the role of nutrient sources in the development of harmful algal blooms. The technology group is heavily involved in the engineering, deployment and maintenance of the Optical Phytoplankton Discriminator, an instrument developed at Mote Marine Laboratory that can, in near-real-time, determine the taxonomic composition of the in situ phytoplankton community. This device has been deployed on buoys, pilings and autonomous underwater vehicles to detect K. brevis among other species. Detection of this harmful alga provides early warning of impending impacts and aids in the research on the organism.
Red Tide Institute- Dr. Cindy Heil
Dr. Heil’s research focuses on the ecophysiology of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) species, especially the Florida red tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, and the relationship of HAB species with coastal water quality and eutrophication in a changing 21st century ocean. Her program currently has projects focused on testing potential compounds for K. brevis cell, toxin and aerosol mitigation, developing new molecular based methodology for the detection of K. brevis, determining the bioavailability of nearshore nutrient sources (e.g. stormwater and wastewater) to K. brevis and examining the factors which determine K. brevis bloom expansion and termination in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Both laboratory and field HAB based projects are available for interns, who will also assist Red Tide Institute staff with regular monthly field based HAB sampling and sample processing.