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 2017 and will be due February 15th.
Program Dates: May 20th, 2017- July 29th, 2017

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 2016 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. 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. 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.

Dr. Jordon Beckler, Ocean Technology Program

This program uses and develops technology for detecting, monitoring, and understanding Harmful Algal Blooms and their associated toxins using Optical Phytoplankton Discriminators (OPD), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), or in situ High-Performance Liquid Chromatographs (HPLC). The intern should be prepared to participate in field deployment and recovery operations, analyze data collected by fixed and moving oceanographic platforms, and interpret these data in the context of coastal shelf dynamics. The opportunity also exists to improve these detection technologies; specifically, by improving the sensitivity and specificity of optical and chemical detection methods for phytoplankton discrimination or brevetoxin determination. With time and interest, the intern may also contribute to the design of new ocean technology outreach programs for high-school teachers and students. Experience in oceanography, chemistry, biology, or electrical or computer engineering is a must.

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. Ryan Schloesser, Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program

This program focuses on population biology and ecology for estuarine and marine fishes. Potential projects include research in one of two research areas. The first is assessing the condition/health of juvenile snook. A student would examine the suitability of various condition indices and compare differences in condition or energy storage between hatchery-reared and wild juveniles. The second research area is the use of otoliths to examine differences in life-hisotry characteristics between hatchery-reared and wild snook. Projects would assess the growth or habitat use of juvenile snook based on microstructure and chemical analyses.

Dr. Andrea Tarnecki, 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 20th-July 29th.
*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

Applicants must complete the online application form 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.


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.