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Mote scientist earns top honor for coral research

Dr. Erinn Muller, Science Director of Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration and Manager forMote’s Coral Health & Disease Research Program, was awarded the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

This award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

Muller, who began her career at Mote in 2012 as a Postdoctoral Fellow, has quickly become one of the worldwide leaders in coral health and disease research.

At Mote, Muller is one of the primary responders in dealing with a devastating coral disease in the Florida Reef Tract, working to identify the pathogen of the disease and outline a plan for recovery. Florida’s coral reefs attract over 16 million visitors a year, with reef-related economic activity contributing over $6 million to the Florida economy and providing for 71,000 jobs.

Through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, Muller has worked since 2015 to study resiliency with staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), a threatened species. Muller’s work looks at major environmental stressors, such as disease, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification, to better understand how the corals respond to these threats. Another major part of this work through NSF is to involve students in the research, thereby engaging younger generations in science designed to benefit reefs.

“Receiving this award is so incredibly exciting, and I’m so honored to be in the same category as so many other remarkable scientists and engineers around the country,” said Muller. “The state of the Florida Reef Tract is dire, and we are working so hard with our many partners to better understand how we can protect and restore this natural resource that our way of life depends on. Our team puts in countless hours in the water and on land, so to receive this award that recognizes the importance of our research means so much to me.”

“Mote Marine Laboratory is so incredibly proud that Dr. Muller has received such a high honor. Erinn was the very first Mote Postdoctoral Fellow that I appointed when we established this program to recruit and nurture the next generation of the best and brightest minds in marine science,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory.

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