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 May and 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 a laboratory-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.


The 2019 REU program will run from May 26-August 3, 2019.

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 2019 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.  

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. 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) and also on human immune function. 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 17 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. Katie McHugh, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), a partnership led by the Chicago Zoological Society and based at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, conducts the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population. The program’s primary goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the structure and dynamics of populations of small cetaceans in relation to ecosystem health, including concurrent and cumulative natural and anthropogenic impacts. The SDRP uses an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach in conducting studies of bottlenose dolphins within southwest Florida estuaries and Gulf of Mexico coastal waters.  For more information about the SDRP, please visit:  REU students will participate in long-term studies focused on monitoring local dolphin communities and their prey. REU students may assist with monthly field projects, including boat-based photographic identification surveys, purse-seine sampling of fish communities, and collection of environmental, behavioral, and acoustic data.  However, students should expect to spend most of their time in the lab working with data and photographs. Specific projects will be determined based upon student interests and current research priorities.

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

Students in this laboratory will work on projects related to red tide mitigation.

Dr. Ryan SchloesserFisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program

Dr. Schloesser’s interests include various aspects of population biology and ecology for estuarine and marine fishes. Potential projects are guided by the use of hatchery-reared fish as ecological probes, and may include assessing habitat quality and the associated composition of fish communities, comparing nutritional or physiological aspects of hatchery and wild fish, or revealing life-history information from fish otoliths. REU students will also have opportunities to learn about best aquaculture practices, field sampling procedures, water quality monitoring, mark-recapture techniques, and data management and analysis. Dr. Schloesser has mentored REU students that researched the effect of shoreline hardening on fish community composition, environmental influences on small-scale fish habitat use, and the application of otoliths as time capsules.

Dr. Philip Gravinese, Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program

Dr. Gravinese’s research interests focus primarily on determining how environmental stressors, like ocean acidification, elevated seawater temperatures, hypoxia, and red tide will impact the reproductive biology, development, survivorship, and behavior of commercially important crustaceans (stone crabs, blue crabs, and spiny lobsters). One of the greatest challenges for the management of crustacean fisheries is the inability to adequately correlate the success rate of larvae and juveniles recruiting back to the fishery with fine-scale environmental changes that occur within coastal habitats. The research in Dr. Gravinese’s laboratory begins to address this challenge by identifying the potential ecological impacts that multiple stressors may have on the reproduction, physiology, and behavior of marine invertebrates. REU students working in Dr. Gravinese’s laboratory will have the opportunity to work on multi-stressor experiments that include: (i) elevated temperature and hypoxia, (ii) red tide and hypoxia, and (iii) ocean acidification and elevated temperature. Projects will include assessing the tolerance, behavior, and physiological responses of experimental animals. Opportunities also exist for matrix modeling. REU students will work at Mote Marine Laboratory's Sarasota campus, assist with field collection of specimens, raise and maintain specimens, perform experiments, collect and enter data and help analyze the results.



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 26 - August 3, 2019

*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.

NSF is particularly interested in increasing the numbers of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in research. Members of these groups, as well as veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, are strongly encouraged to apply for the REU Program.  (Underrepresented minorities are African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders.)

Stipends, travel and housing information

Students participating in the Mote 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

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.

2019 applications have closed. Applications for summer 2020 will be posted in January.


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 number pending) The NSF contact for this program is Elizabeth Rom. NSF does not handle REU applications; please contact each REU site directly for application information.