Since 2003, Mote Marine Laboratory has been a host site for the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The Mote REU Program offers paid research training experiences in estuarine science to 10 undergraduate students during a 10-week period between late May and early August. 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.

The Mote REU Program offers paid research training experiences in estuarine science to 10 undergraduate students per year.


  • 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 alaboratory-wide poster presentation.
  • Attend research seminars on ocean science presented by graduate students from several Florida universities.
  • Learn about opportunities for graduate study, careers in marine science, and communication skills in science by participating in student workshops.


Application will open in January 2016 and will be due February 15th.

Program Dates: May 29th, 2016- August 5th, 2016

Research Programs & Participating Mentors

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

The following mentors will be participating in the 2015 REU session:

Dr. Kellie Dixon, Chemical Ecology Program

This program uses advanced analytical techniques to investigate all aspects of water quality in lakes, rivers, estuaries and the coastal marine environment. Ongoing projects include the development of new methods for detecting oil pollution on coastal waters, and performing advanced studies of marine optics with respect to seagrass survival. REU students assist with field collection of samples, data entry and laboratory analysis of water quality parameters. Students with chemistry laboratory coursework and computer experience preferred. One student will be selected for this research experience.

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. 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. 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. Students with basic laboratory experience are preferred. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Erinn Muller, Coral Reef Ecosystem Research Program 

This program focuses on coral reef ecology, specifically the impact of diseases on coral reef assemblages. Coral disease is one of the greatest threats to reefs around the world. The project involves the use of spatial epidemiology - the study of where and when disease outbreaks occur - to further understand the environmental and ecological parameters that may influence coral-disease activity. Students must be comfortable spending a significant amount of time on the computer, as much of the time will be spent analyzing photographs and data. Students should also be strong swimmer/comfortable in water in day and night. Prefer students who are SCUBA certified; familiar with GIS; familiar with command-driven computer programs such as R and Matlab; and have basic biological statistics skills. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Justin Perrault, Sea Turtle Health & Toxicology Program 

This program focuses on the effects of toxicants and toxins on health and reproductive success of marine turtles nesting in southwest Florida. Potential projects include determining the effects of heavy metals (e.g., cadmium, mercury, lead) and persistent organic pollutants (e.g., DDTs, polychlorinated biphenyls) on baseline health parameters in nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles and determining if brevetoxins (natural toxins that result from red tides) are transferred from nesting female to hatchling marine turtles through lipid-rich eggs. REU students will participate in field- and laboratory-based research projects on toxicant and toxin loads in marine turtles. REU students will be involved with field procedures (nightly beach patrols, PIT and flipper tagging, data collection) and laboratory procedures (health analyses including protein electrophoresis and complete blood counts and toxin analyses including ELISA). One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Kim Ritchie, Marine Microbiology Program

This program studies microorganisms and their role in the marine environment. Ongoing projects include determining healthy and threatened marine organisms, assessing baseline microbial communities associated with healthy marine systems and understanding the role of microbes in coral health and disease and the beneficial factors affecting coral reef resistance and resilience. Methods combine field assessments with microbiological and molecular techniques. REU students assist with microbial culturing, DNA sequencing, PCR, cloning and there is potential to sample via snorkeling and/or SCUBA. Students should have a basic microbiology background and an interest in coral reef protection. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Justin Shapiro, M.S., Ocean Technology Program

This program develops and utilizes field hardened technology for detecting and monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) using the Optical Phytoplankton Detector (OPD). This program monitors the West Florida Shelf around the clock using automated instruments mounted on docks, buoys and flown as the payload of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. The REU student should be prepared to participate in field deployment and recovery operations, analyze data collected by fixed and moving oceanographic platforms, and interpreting coastal shelf dynamics. The student should also be prepared to assess the sensitivity and specificity of optical detection methods for phytoplankton discrimination. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Cathy Walsh, Marine Immunology Program

The Marine Immunology Program focuses on basic and applied immunological research of marine animals ranging from cartilaginous fishes to marine mammals. Basic research efforts contribute to a better understanding of comparative vertebrate immune function as well as phylogenetic insights into human immunity, while applied studies provide unique information helpful in assessing immune health of wild populations of marine animals, including marine mammals, exposed to a variety of environmental stressors. REU students will participate in laboratory-based research projects on immune function in sharks, skate, or other marine wildlife such as manatees. REU students will be involved with laboratory procedures such as cell culture, ELISA, western blotting, microtiter plate-based assays and gel electrophoresis. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Nick Whitney, Shark Behavioral Ecology Program

This program uses a variety of electronic tags (with a focus on accelerometers) to study the movement, behavior, and energy use of free-living sharks. The REU student should be prepared to work in the field on occasion but also spend long hours analyzing data, downloading/synchronizing/preparing tags for deployment, etc. Experience with analytical computer software, digital photography, and/or electronics is preferred, and field experience (snorkeling/kayaking/boating) is helpful. Excellent organizational skills, the ability to work independently, and meticulous attention to detail will be the most important skills required for this project. One student will be selected for this research experience.

Dr. Andrea Larsen, Marine Immunology Programs

Microbial communities play an important role in host health from development of the gut and immune system to providing protection against opportunistic pathogens.  In aquaculture, a primary use of probiotics - live bacterial supplements that boost immune function, improve growth, or strengthen resistance to disease-causing microorganisms -- is to manipulate microbial communities in fish.  Current research focuses on characterizing bacterial community compositions of various marine fish species grown in aquaculture.  Bacterial assemblages are analyzed alongside immune parameters in order to test the effectiveness of probiotic supplements as well as target new bacterial species for future probiotic development.  Methods include bacterial DNA sequencing, immunological assays, and statistical analyses, with the ultimate goal of understanding the mechanism behind the benefits that probiotics provide their host.

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 rehabilitaiton 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. Katie McHugh, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP) focuses on understanding structure and dynamics of small cetacean populations as well as how natural and anthropogenic factors affect these populations.  REU students will participate in SDRP’s long-term studies focused on monitoring local dolphin communities and their prey.  REU students may assist with monthly field projects but should also expect to spend time in the lab working with data and photographs.  Specific projects will be determined based on student interests and current research priorities.   For more information about the SDRP, please visit:


To be eligible for the Mote 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 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 30th to August 7th.
*Students may NOT have already graduated at the time of their 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 REU Program.

Stipends, travel and housing information

Students participating in the Mote REU Program receive:

  • $5,000 stipend over the 10-week period
  • Free housing in a local dormitory
  • Financial support for travel expenses between Mote and their home institution

Application Procedure

The REU Application Process is now closed.


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, and the cognizant Program Director for all OCE-funded REU sites is Lisa Rom at or 703-292-7709.