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8-3-12 Friday's News@Mote
Published Friday, August 3, 2012
by Hayley Rutger

Wounded Veterans Help With Coral Restoration by MoteMote Vice President Receives Heritage Recognition from Irish GovernmentMote REU Interns Shine During Research Presentation

Wounded Veterans Help With Coral Restoration by Mote

Combat-wounded veterans and teenage volunteers from SCUBAnauts International dive with Mote Marine Laboratory scientists to mount coral fragments being grown for reef restoration at Mote's staghorn coral nursery in the Florida Keys.

  • Media: For high-res photos, please contact Hayley Rutger at 941-374-0081 or

Combat-wounded veterans showed their skill Monday and Tuesday in the service…of Florida’s coral reefs. As part of a reef restoration project by Mote Marine Laboratory, five combat-wounded veterans and accompanying staff from the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, along with teenage volunteers from SCUBAnauts International, helped tend Mote’s coral nursery near Looe Key Reef.

The veterans and SCUBAnauts dived with Mote researchers to mount fragments of staghorn coral onto “line nurseries” — monofilament lines attached to PVC pipes — to be grown for restoration of coral reefs in the Florida Keys. The group mounted 600 coral fragments — the most ever during a single day at Mote’s staghorn nursery.

“These guys were great — they helped us do twice the work we normally would and it made our day to have the wounded veterans helping us with staghorn coral,” said Dr. David Vaughan, manager of Mote’s Coral Reef Restoration Program. Staghorn coral is a threatened species vital to Florida’s coral reef system — the only barrier reef in the continental U.S. Mote scientists are leading cutting-edge coral research, conservation and restoration efforts at Mote’s Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key and they are working with multiple partners to plant thousands of coral fragments onto depleted areas of Florida’s reefs.

The wounded veterans were selected by the Care Coalition of the United States Special Operations Command to participate in the Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge, a nonprofit program which invited them to Florida for underwater activities related to a study on underwater prosthetics. They also took part in cross-mentoring activities with ScubaNAUTS, a nonprofit youth group for informal science education. The ScubaNAUTS had previously volunteered with Mote and invited the wounded veterans to join them.

The group included five wounded veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they received traumatic brain injuries or limb injuries requiring amputation. Those challenges haven’t stemmed their sense of adventure and their desire to help the ocean recover from its own challenges.

“The guys had a great time on the reef; they thought it was amazing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Kelly of the Care Coalition. “Understanding how the corals are being destroyed, and how it’s so hard to get them back into play and growing – that was really interesting. I know our guys want to come back and do this again.” 

In addition to Mote's staghorn coral nursery, Mote is also working on other coral restoration efforts, studies of how ocean acidification affects corals and other species and even research on the microbiological makeup of corals. Many of these efforts are funded through sales of the Protect Our Reefs specialty Florida license plate, which supports coral research, education and outreach designed to conserve and protect Florida’s reef. Learn more and find out how to get your plate at

Mote Research Vice President Receives Heritage Recognition from Irish Government
Dr. Michael Crosby, Senior Vice President for Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, received an official recognition of his Irish heritage from the Irish Government during a recent trip to Dublin where he was invited to serve as keynote speaker in the European Science Open Forum 2012 Special Session on the Atlantic's Shared Resources.

His presentation, entitled “Stories of Connections, Challenges & Opportunities in the Atlantic,” included discussions of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, Mote’s shark research, the story of Johnny Vasco da Gama, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that was found stranded in the Netherlands and eventually brought to Mote for return to the wild, as well as Mote’s new Ocean Literacy Visiting Eminent Scholar Program.

The Certificate of Irish Heritage is an official recognition by the Irish Government of those who are proud of their Irish ancestry and their own Irish heritage.

Dr. Crosby’s grandmother and grandfather were born and raised in County Wexford, and his father spent a part of his early years there. Both grandparents were very active in the Irish Rebellion for Independence and his grandmother held two commemorative medals sent to her in the U.S. by the president of the Irish Republic. She also received a small pension for the work she did during the rebellion.

Dr. Crosby has been involved with numerous marine science partnerships with Irish researchers over the years, and was the lead on the U.S. side for establishing a formal agreement for an international marine science partnership between NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Marine Institute of Ireland that was signed by then-President Clinton.

Read the full story at:

Mote REU Interns Shine During Research Presentations

Mote REU interns and Mote Marine Laboratory staff gather for the interns' research presentations. From left: REU intern Shan Kasal, Mote Senior Scientist Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, REU interns Marissa Ciesla, Jenny Shoots, Kate Kaiser, Sara Williams, Mallory Steenstrup, Luc Gassie, Jenny Servis, Tauras Vilgalys, Thomas Heiman, Mote College Intern Coordinator Krystle Harvey, REU interns Jake Schoville and Joelle Zambrano.

  • Media: For high-res photos, please contact Hayley Rutger at 941-374-0081 or

Students participating in Mote’s NSF-funded REU Program on Thursday presented posters summarizing the findings of the scientific research projects they developed and undertook during their summer internship at the Lab.

REU stands for Research Experiences for Undergraduates. This prestigious program, created and funded through the National Science Foundation, provides paid internships for undergraduate students. The internships are designed to give students a hands-on opportunity to perform their own scientific research project in a real-life laboratory setting.

During the 10-week program, they are paired with Mote scientists who help mentor them through the program — helping them choose and define their research projects and guiding them as they perform experiments needed to complete the project.

Mote has been a partner institution in the NSF REU Program since 2002.

On Thursday, the 12 students participating in the 2012 REU Program presented their findings during a special poster session at the Lab. Scientific poster sessions are a key avenue that scientists use to present their findings to colleagues during scientific conferences. During these sessions, scientists answer questions about their area of study and about the findings presented in the poster. Mote’s annual REU poster session offers students the opportunity to present their findings and explain them.

“For most of our REU interns, this is the first time they’ve worked side by side with a scientist on a project that is their own – from the creation of a hypothesis, to experimental design, to data analysis, to making conclusions,” said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, who leads the project along with Dr. Cathy Walsh. “Our REU students experience each step of the scientific method. Sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn’t — but they all learn what it’s like to conduct research.”

The following students presented posters on their research during the Thursday afternoon session:

Student and Mentor: Marissa Ciesla, University of South Florida; Dr. Cathy Walsh, mentor
Poster Title: TRAIL Receptor Expression in Transformed versus Normal Cells Exposed to an Epigonal Conditioned Medium
Summary: This project investigated a compound found in sharks for its cell death signaling ability.

Student and Mentor: Luc Gassie, University of Miami; Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick
Poster Title: Particle Flow Analysis through the Cross-Flow Filter in the Optical Phytoplankton Discriminator
Summary: This project examined the filtering system in the red tide detector to see if changes in the filtering can enhance detection of Florida red tide.

Student and Mentor: Thomas Heiman, Prescott College: Dr. Jayne Gardiner
Poster Title: Feeding Behavior of Hatchery-raised and Wild Centropomus undecimalis (common snook)
Summary: The project analyzed video of wild caught and hatchery raised snook to see if feeding behaviors were different. 

Student and Mentor: Kate Kaiser, College of St. Benedict; Dr. Kellie Dixon
Poster Title: The Determination of the Capabilities of the C6 Multi-Sensor Platform and Cyclops-7® Sensors
Summary: This project measured the performance of multiple sensors for oil detection.

Student and Mentor: Shan Kasal, Rollins College; Dr. Cathy Walsh
Poster Title: Inflammatory Cytokine Response of PBMCs exposed to PbTx-2 and PbTx-3
Summary: This project examined the cellular response to brevetoxin, the Florida red tide toxin.

Student and Mentor: Jake Schoville, University of Wisconsin-Platteville; Dr. Vince Lovko
Poster Title: Potential biocontrol of Karenia brevis blooms via the parasitoid Amoebophrya sp.
Summary: This project investigated the presence of a parasite that may be a natural predator for Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism.

Student and Mentor: Jenny Servis, Kalamazoo College; Gretchen Lovewell, MS
Poster Title: Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) Diet Analysis in Florida’s Sarasota Gulf Coast Region
Summary: This project examined the food that Kemp’s ridley sea turtles eat to better understand their food source and habitat needs.

Student and Mentor: Jenny Shoots, Kenyon College; Dr. Kim Ritchie
Poster Title: Bacterial shifts during spawning of the Caribbean coral, Porites astreoides
Summary: This study investigated whether a Caribbean coral undergoes changes to its bacterial community during spawning.

Student and Mentor: Mallory Steenstrup, Warren Wilson College; Dr. Emily Hall
Poster Title: Ocean Acidification Effects on Coral Mucus Bacterial Composition and Properties
Summary: Antibacterial properties of coral may play a vital role in their growth and survival and it would be beneficial to determine if more acidic conditions and rising temperatures will inhibit these properties.

Student and Mentor: Tauras Vilgalys, Loyola Marymount University; Dr. Nick Whitney
Poster Title: Quantifying Dive Behavior in Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus)

Summary: Using accelerometer technology allows for the differentiation of dive types and behaviors, the first step toward a more comprehensive understanding of shark behavior, metabolic expenditure and ecological role.

Student and Mentor: Sara Williams, College of William and Mary; Dr. Erinn Muller
Poster Title: How does the spatial distribution of M. annularis and M. faveolata impact Caribbean yellow band disease dynamics?
Summary: It is important to understand the spatial patterns of the susceptible corals in order to better understand potential pathogen sources and other potential factors that can impact the spread of the disease.

Student and Mentor: Joelle Zambrano, High Point University; Dr. Jen Yordy
Poster Title: Isolation of the bioactive molecules from the shark epigonal conditioned media (ECM) exhibiting growth inhibitory activity against mammalian tumor cell lines.
Summary: If the specific molecules responsible for the bioactivity of ECM can be isolated and identified, they could potentially lead to the development of new cancer treatments.


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Contact: Hayley Rutger, 941-388-4441, ext. 365,


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