Applications for Summer 2023 are now closed. Please visit the College Internship Program page for information about other summer internship opportunities.

We at Mote are scientists, explorers and stewards of the ocean. Focused on research and education, we work to create a better environment for ourselves and our families. The answers are in the ocean. Together, we will find them. 

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Join us for an online info session to learn more about the NSF REU Program.   To register, click the available dates below.            

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The Mote REU Summer season will run from May 28 - August 5, 2023.

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 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 28 to August 5, 2023. For questions regarding scheduling conflicts, please see our FAQs page.

*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), and make efforts to receive academic credit for participation in the NSF REU Program. However, these are NOT requirements to qualify for the program.

No former research or internship experience necessary.


  • 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:

  • $6,000 stipend and $1000 food 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 2023 NSF REU program will run from May 28 to August 5, 2023.

Application deadline is February 15th.

*Participants must be available for the full duration of the program. See FAQs page for more details about scheduling.

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 one letter of recommendation (up to two will be accepted), which must be uploaded directly by their recommender(s). More detailed instructions for preparing and submitting these materials are provided on the application page. Click here for a preview of the application. For application tips, click here.


General Internship FAQs

Still unsure what to expect from an internship with Mote. Check out this video to hear directly from our interns and learn more!

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 2023 NSF REU session:

Dr. Emily Hall, Ocean Acidification Program  

This program focuses on the effects of ocean acidification (OA) coastal acidification (CA) 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, the effects of OA and CC on red tide blooms, effects of red tide mitigation on carbonate chemistry, and monitoring coastal acidification at the riverine-coastal interface of the surrounding bay areas. NSF REU students will predominantly be working within an experimental facility, 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. 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 conducts basic research related to innate and acquired immune function in marine organisms as well as cell line development with fish and invertebrate species. Past NSF REU students have worked on projects related to effects of algal toxin exposure on immune function in marine vertebrates (Florida manatee, sea turtles, sharks, fish). Other 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, growth of cell lines, or cellular assays of bioactivity from cell cultures from various marine species. Other research projects may include various cell culture approaches to establishing cell lines from various marine species. Successful students exhibit a desire to learn more about laboratory-based research related to marine science. Laboratory techniques students may learn include cell culture, electrophoresis, western blotting, microplate based assays, qPCR, and cell flow cytometry, etc. 

Gretchen Lovewell, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Strandings Investigation Program 

This program responds 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. The majority of the work is carcass recovery and necropsy, not rescue and rehabilitation. 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. REU interns will be expected to create, implement and present a research project. Successful students should "think outside of the box" and be creative and innovative. For example, investigating the amount of human interaction found in stranded marine animals is not a research project; that is part of the standard data we collect on every animal. We encourage students to ask questions of those data such as ‘how, when, why, where’ are animals affected by humans, what can be done to help conservation, or to ask anatomical, physiological, or life-history questions.

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. Tristyn Bercel, Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory

The Red Tide Institute’s main research focus is the ecophysiology of Karenia brevis, the marine phytoplankton which causes Florida’s red tides. Dr. Bercel works on the ECOHAB: Life and Death of Karenia brevis blooms grant, and projects will utilize a combination of field and laboratory based experiments. Examples include sampling water in the gulf to analyze for a wide variety of water quality parameters, growing K. brevis in cell culture, competition experiments, and measurements of photosynthetic parameters. Projects can also include historical database analysis. While no prior experience is required, having a background in biological statistics and a command-driven computer language will be useful for students to more easily be able to analyze the results of their experiments. 

Dr. Jake Lasala, Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program

The Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) at Mote has documented nesting trends on 35 miles of Sarasota, Florida beaches. Since 1982, we have documented over 133,000 sea turtle crawls and estimate that nearly 3.4 million hatchlings have left 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. NSF REU students 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.

Dr. Beth Brady, Manatee Research Program

Dr. Beth Brady’s lab focuses primarily on the biology, behavior and acoustics of West Indian manatee species. Current projects focus on vocal communication of manatees, behavior of individuals in an aggregation site, and using drones/drone imagery to assess body condition.  NSF students will have the opportunity to learn about acoustics and use software to analyze vocalizations. Alternative projects include behavioral observations of manatees and/or learning techniques used in photogrammetry.  Interns also have the option (with assistance of Dr. Brady) of developing their own research question related to observations of manatees in a wild setting.

Dr. Sara Williams, Coral Health and Disease Program

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. Additionally, we work closely with the Coral Restoration Program and International Coral Gene Bank to support Mote's science-based restoration goals and promote resilient reefs. We use a combination of field research, tank-based experiments, physiological measurements, and advanced statistics and modeling to answer a wide variety of questions concerning coral reef resilience. 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. Projects within this program will be laboratory and/or computer based and may include wetlab experiments. Prefer students familiar with command-driven computer programs such as R and have basic biological statistics skills. Students with solid code skills will have the opportunity to analyze larger datasets while developing more advanced skills in quantitative ecology.

Dr. Kirstie Francis, Molecular Microbiology

Our oceans are home to some of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. This biodiversity translates to incredible chemical diversity, and the intense competition for resources observed in marine ecosystems promotes the evolution of secondary metabolites, or marine natural products. The new molecular microbiology research program under Dr. Francis will focus on identifying bioactive natural products from marine microorganisms. NSF REU students in this program will be able to complete multidisciplinary projects involving microbiology, organic chemistry, and/or molecular biology. Responsibilities could include culturing activities to maintain and expand the Mote microbial library, development of microbial extracts, testing microbial extracts for a variety of biological activities, and purification of active compounds. Successful applicants should have completed coursework in microbiology or organic chemistry and demonstrate an interest in laboratory techniques. Prior lab experience is helpful but not required.


Email your questions to

Note: All students who are offered a position at this NSF REU Site have until March 15, 2023 or later to accept or reject the offer. This NSF REU Site is funded 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; however, NSF does not handle REU applications; please contact each REU site directly for application information.