Applications due February 15.

Note: For Summer 2021, we are planning an in-person internship program. However, these decisions are based on local safety and health regulations due to COVID-19. If necessary, internships may be offered remotely, or be cancelled entirely.

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Mote Marine Laboratory is offering research-based internship opportunities for undergraduate students designed to provide hands-on opportunities to participate in 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. Interns will participate in scientific projects being conducted in their mentor’s area of expertise; however, they are not required to complete their own independent projects like the NSF REU Program. 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.)

Eligibility:

  • 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. Priority will be given to students who have not completed an NSF REU internship program.
  • Available for the full duration of the program, from May 30 - August 7, 2021.

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. *Stipend amount will be confirmed upon acceptance notification.
  • Free housing in a local dormitory or a housing stipend. *Confirmed upon acceptance notification.
  • 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.  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 Program - 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.

Chemical Ecology Program - 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 Research Program - Dr. Erinn Muller

(Internship locations in both Sarasota, FL, and Summerland Key, 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. If applicants have a preferred location, it should be specified in the statement of interest.

Coral Health and Disease Research Program - 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. Interns 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.

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.

Ecotoxicology Program - Dr. Aileen Maldonado

The Ecotoxicology Program studies the impact of natural toxins and human pollutants on marine organisms. Interns in this program will be involved with research on red tide mitigation, sunscreen, pesticides effects on fish, bivalves and other invertebrates. The program uses analytical chemistry to isolate natural toxins and pollutants from water and tissue and measure them on LCMS/MS. Our ECOS laboratory is set up to conduct exposures on fish, mysid, corals, oyster, clams, etc. One current project is identifying a compound to mitigate red tide and assess the impact that mitigation might have on the environment through tradition and innovative EPA ecotoxicology exposures.
Another project focuses on addressing the impacts of red tide and pollutants (e.g sunscreens and pesticides) on corals by looking at molecular endpoints and sublethal effects on corals. Coral reefs are in decline due to climate and other human impacts. The hope of this research is to address the local issues that are impacting corals to help them better survive for future generations.

Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program - 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 Research Program - Dr. Nicole Rhody

The Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture Research 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 Research 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 Program - 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 Research Program - Dr. Emily Hall

(internship locations in both Sarasota, FL, and Summerland Key, FL)

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. 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.

Ocean Technology and Marine Biochemistry Program - Dr. Willie Haskell

The Ocean Technology Program develops new technology for various applications in ocean observing. The Marine Biogeochemistry Program uses field observations to study the processes controlling elemental cycling in the oceans, often using novel sensors or platforms developed/maintained by the OT program. Interns will predominantly be working with engineers in our lab, assisting with sampling operations in the field, and performing data analysis/interpretation. Potential projects include: assisting in building/integrating and deploying in-situ instruments, analyzing datasets collected by our buoyancy-driven underwater gliders, and using moored instrumentation for monitoring environmental parameters. Some sea-going work on small vessels may be necessary. Students with a background in marine science/oceanography, engineering or chemistry/biology preferred.

Phytoplankton Ecology Program - Dr. Vince Lovko

The Phytoplankton Ecology Program focuses on the physiology and ecology of phytoplankton. The technology group focuses on developing better equipment to support the study of phytoplankton. Much of the work has addressed the harmful alga that impacts Florida, the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. One of the primary objectives 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. 

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.

Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program - Dr. Jake Lasala

The Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) at Mote has documented nesting trends on 35 miles of Sarasota, Florida beaches since 1982. The program has documented nearly 120,000 sea turtle crawls and almost 3 million hatchlings leaving the beach. Dr. Lasala is creating and implementing research projects that focus on these nesters and their offspring to ask questions about behavioral shifts over time. The core of his projects focus on genetic proxies to identify how individual behavior affects these local and global species populations. Interns will primarily assist in the field at night to collect samples, but will also learn how to enter and work with raw data, genetic analysis techniques, and statistical techniques. This population of sea turtles is growing in the region and provides an excellent opportunity to ask novel and insightful questions moving forward.