Application deadline is February 15.

Since 2003, Mote Marine Laboratory has been a host site for the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The NSF REU Program offers paid research training experiences in estuarine science to 10 undergraduate students during a 10-week period between May and August. NSF REU participants are paired with Mote scientists and conduct mentored research projects related to their advisor's expertise. Students gain experience in science communication by presenting the results of their project in a manuscript-style research paper and orally at a laboratory-wide research symposium. Participants attend research seminars and workshops on career skills in science. Students may also have the opportunity to present their research findings at professional conferences.


NSF’s goal is to broaden participation in research through the NSF REU program.  Individuals historically underrepresented in STEM are encouraged to apply, including: underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders), persons with disabilities, first-generation college students, women and veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.

To be eligible for the NSF REU Program, students must be:

  • 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 NSF 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

*Students may NOT have already graduated at the time of participation in the NSF REU internship.

In addition, applicants should:

Possess a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher (on a 4-point scale).
Make efforts to receive academic credit for participation in the NSF REU Program.


  • Conduct mentored research projects under the direction of a Mote scientist.
  • Gain experience in the development of research plans by completing a research proposal.
  • Gain experience in scientific writing by completing a "manuscript-style" final research paper.
  • Gain experience in oral presentation of scientific data by presenting their research results in a laboratory-wide poster presentation.
  • Attend research seminars on ocean science.
  • 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 NSF REU Program receive:

  • $5,500 stipend over the 10-week period
  • 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.


The 2020 NSF REU program will run from May 24-August 1, 2020.

*Participants must be available for the full duration of the program.

Application Procedure

Applicants must complete the online application form.  Select the NSF REU application and upload a one-to-two page Statement of Interest, a resume or CV, and unofficial transcript. Applicants must also request two letters of recommendation, which must be uploaded directly by their recommenders. More detailed instructions for preparing and submitting these materials are provided on the application page.

Research Programs & Participating Mentors

Please note: The specific project each NSF REU student will undertake will be determined after the student's acceptance.

The following mentors will be participating in the 2020 NSF REU session:

Dr. Emily Hall, Ocean Acidification Program  

This program focuses on effects of ocean acidification (OA) and climate change (CC) on marine organisms and their ecosystems. Potential projects include the effects of OA and CC on corals, bivalves, or other important marine organisms. NSF REU students will predominantly be working with one of two OA and CC testing facilities, assisting with field collection of samples, data entry, and laboratory analysis. Some travel to the Summerland Key field station might be required. Students with a chemistry background preferred. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Aileen Maldonado, Ecotoxicology Program

The mission of the Ecotoxicology Research Program is to investigate the source, fate and effects of toxic substances in the environment, including natural biotoxins (harmful algal toxins) and chemical pollutants (pesticides, petroleum, industrial contaminants, pharmaceuticals), to develop and implement new technologies for identification and monitoring toxic substances, to assess impacts from exposure to living natural resources and to work with federal, state and local stakeholders to identify ways to reduce ecological risks while protecting public health and enhancing Florida's economy. 

Dr. Erinn Muller, Coral Health and Disease Program 

This program focuses on understanding 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. Prefer students familiar with command-driven computer programs such as R  and have basic biological statistics skills. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Vince Lovko, Phytoplankton Ecology Program  

Projects under this program will focus on the biology and ecology of phytoplankton, typically with an emphasis on the red-tide dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis. Projects may include laboratory and/or field-based studies exploring population and bloom dynamics, species interactions, or phytoplankton community composition and species distribution. REU students will have opportunities to learn aspects of phytoplankton culture, identification and enumeration, bioassay techniques, light and fluorescent microscopy, field sampling of phytoplankton communities and data analysis techniques.  

Dr. Cathy Walsh, Marine Immunology Program

Dr. Walsh is an immunologist who conducts basic research related to innate and acquired immune function in marine organisms. She also conducts applied research geared towards developing bioindicators of immune compromise associated with exposure to environmental and anthropogenic stressors in marine mammals and sea turtles and marine natural products derived from elasmobranch (sharks, skates, rays) fish. Past REU students have worked on projects related to effects of algal toxin exposure on immune function in marine vertebrates (Florida manatee, sea turtles, and sharks). Past projects have also investigated cellular effects of proteins isolated from shark immune cells on target tumor cells. Research projects are primarily laboratory-based and focus on cellular effects of algal toxins or other stressors. Successful students exhibit a desire to learn more about laboratory-based research related to marine science. Techniques students may be exposed to include cell culture, electrophoresis, western blotting, microplate based assays, and cell flow cytometry. Dr. Walsh has mentored more than 18 REU students since 2003. 

Gretchen Lovewell, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Strandings Investigation Program 

This program provides response to reports of marine mammal and sea turtle strandings 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  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.

Dr. Andrea Tarnecki, Marine Microbiology

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. Potential research topics within this program are vast, with previous projects including the effects of probiotics on larval fish survival, the blood microbiome of fishes, the benefits of disinfection on fish egg production, and the effects of captivity and parasite treatment on the fish microbiome. Projects will involve occasional field sampling as well as sample collection from captive animals. REU 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.

Dr Cindy Heil, Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory

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.

Dr. Philip Gravinese, Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program

Dr. Gravinese’s research focuses on determining how anthropogenic stressors impact the development, survival, and behavior of larval and juvenile crustaceans. Recently, his research has focused on identifying how singular and simultaneous stressors like ocean acidification, elevated temperature, hypoxia, and red tide may impact the tolerance of crustaceans including Florida’s commercially important species such as the stone crab, blue crab, and Caribbean spiny lobster. Potential projects will include ocean acidification studies aimed at determining the acclimatization potential of stone crabs from local pH-variable habitats, which will couple laboratory experiments with field-based research and monitoring. Other potential projects will include determining the physiological tolerance and behavioral responses of commercially important crustaceans to: 1) red tide toxins and 2) elevated temperature and hypoxic stress.

REU students will work at Mote Marine Laboratories Sarasota campus, assist with field collection of samples and specimens, raise and maintain specimens in a laboratory setting, perform experiments associated with the aforementioned studies, collect and enter data specific to the project, and help analyze the results. Students may have the opportunity to serve as a co-author on a peer-reviewed scientific publication pending successful research outcomes. A list of Dr. Gravinese’s publications can be found at



Email your questions to

Note: All students who are offered a position at this REU Site have until March 15th or later to accept or reject the offer. This REU Site is funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences. 

Funding for this REU site is provided by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences located in Arlington, VA. (award #1757419) The NSF contact for this program is Elizabeth Rom. NSF does not handle REU applications; please contact each REU site directly for application information.