Marine Biomedical & Biotechnology Research

Microbiology Team

Project Lead

Peter McCarthy, Ph.D
Research Professor



Dedra Harmody

Research Technician


Graduate Students  

David Bradshaw David Brandshaw

Graduate Student

David J. Bradshaw II is a PhD student who started working in the McCarthy lab in Fall 2015.  The main objective of his PhD dissertation research is to determine the diversity of bacterial and archaeal communities in the Indian River Lagoon, FL, an economically and biologically important estuary. He will be determining how prokaryotic populations change in response to natural and human impacts including trace metals and fine grained, highly organic muck. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether community members or diversity metrics can act as community based indicators of ecological health. His research includes four main stages: a two year lagoon-wide study to act as a baseline, a study focused on how dredging muck changes the microbial communities, an examination into how the microbial communities differ from heavy metal impacted marinas to nearby less impacted sites, and finally a study involving shotgun sequencing to determine the functional diversity differences between these impacted and less impacted sites.

Microbial populations are important members of the ecosystem since they play a significant role in nutrient cycling, serve as the base of the food chain, and can change the toxicity of pollutants. His research will be the first study to focus on the microbial diversity of this estuarine system. This research will also contribute to our understanding of the water and sediment quality of the Indian River Lagoon and its geochemical properties in terms of bioaccessible trace metals. Once community based indicators are found, they will be a tool which can be used in understanding how the microbial ecosystem responds to variations in water and sediment quality; these can then be applied to other aquatic systems.

He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a Bachelors of Science in molecular and cellular biology in 2010. He spent a little over two years at Strich School of Medicine as part of the Naval Health Professions Scholarship Program and the Inactive Reserves, but withdrew to pursue a research focused career. He worked as the Safety Director for Environmental Cleansing Corporation while applying to transfer between Corps in the Navy. After the Navy could not accommodate this transfer due to inexperience, he applied to graduate programs. His career goal after graduation is to rejoin the Navy and work as a microbial researcher. 

Hunter Hines Hunter Hines

Graduate Student

Hunter N. Hines is a Ph.D. student in the McCarthy lab working on microbial ecology, focusing on the biogeography and biodiversity of ciliates, a large and diverse group of single-celled eukaryotic organisms.  He is registered through Bournemouth University (England) under the joint primary supervision of Dr. Genoveva Esteban (BU, UK) and Dr. Peter McCarthy (FAU, USA). Through this international collaboration, he is conducting research into ciliate communities found in the tropical aquatic ecosystems present in Florida, such as freshwater ponds. His research to date has included the identification of several novel flagship species; some being first records out of Africa, and/or first records for the Americas. Hunter’s discovery of the ciliate Loxodes rex led to a major publication, which can be seen here: Several other papers on the ecology of novel ciliates are in preparation.

The recent discoveries of flagship ciliates in new locations and also several apparently new species of ciliates are the current focus of his research which will include intensive sampling leading to detailed ecological and morphological descriptions.

Hunter was accepted into the ‘Biodiversity Conservation’ masters program at Bournemouth University (UK) in 2013. His dissertation on microbial ecology was supervised by Dr. Genoveva Esteban and included the discovery of a new species of ciliate, for which he was awarded an MSc with distinction. Prior to his graduate work, he attended Palm Beach Atlantic University (Florida, USA) receiving a B.S. in Biology, with a minor in Oceanography.

Several short videos of the large, charismatic ciliates he has found thriving in Florida have been uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed here:

Carlie Perricone Carlie Perricone

Graduate Student

Carlie Perricone joined the lab as a Biology Masters student in January 2015. Her thesis research involves microbial source tracking as an assessment of non-point source fecal pollution in surface waters and sediments throughout the St. Lucie Estuary and southern Indian River Lagoon. She is monitoring the distribution and seasonal occurrence of fecal indicator bacteria in these water bodies by using standard cultivation techniques to enumerate enterococci. In order to determine the polluting sources (septic tanks, agricultural drainage, wildlife input), she is performing quantitative PCR assays to detect bacterial genetic markers associated with the intestinal tract of humans, cows, and birds. She hopes the study will contribute to a better understanding of how environmental factors and anthropogenic activities can influence recreational water quality.

 Prior to her acceptance into the graduate program at Florida Atlantic University - Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, she completed her B.S. in Biology at FAU (December 2013) with a concentration in Marine Biology. As an undergraduate, she participated in the FAU HBOI Semester by the Sea Program (Spring 2013) and the FAU HBOI Summer Internship Program (Summer 2013). Her research project, under Dr. McCarthy, focused on antibiotic resistant bacteria in sediments found in the Indian River Lagoon.

Carlie Perricone   Brandon McHendry

Graduate Student

Brandon McHenry is a recent graduate from Florida Atlantic University (Spring 2016) with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. Brandon participated in Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Semester by the Sea Program for undergraduates in Spring 2015. Here, he immersed himself in the science of marine biology and gained real world experience aboard the R.V. Bellows during a short research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. During this same semester Brandon became a volunteer in the lab of Dr. Peter McCarthy under recent Ph.D. graduate, Gabby Barbarite, doing research on pathogenic Vibrio bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon with emphasis on human recreational health. The following year Brandon participated in a Directed Independent Study for the Semester of Fall 2015 where he worked on the presence of these estuarinebacteria in Mangrove Snapper meat with focus on foodborne illness and safety. The summer after his graduation from FAU, Brandon was accepted to participate in the 10-week Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Summer Internship. During this study Brandon assessed the effects of freshwater discharge and tidal influences on the presence and abundance of Vibrio spp. in the local IRL. Additionally, Brandon and his mentor, Gabby Barbarite, sampled 250 miles of Florida’s east coast to investigate the claim that these pathogens could be found at the beach, which was thought to be outside of their ecological niche. Brandon plans to continue his research on Vibrio bacteria in relation to a stress induced state known as Viable But Not Culturable (VBNC). His Master’s project involves examining the response of pathogenic Vibrio bacteria to changes in salinity, a parameter that these organisms are highly influenced by. The goal of this project is to understand the possible effects that anthropogenic runoff and discharge may have on both the distribution and abundance of these pathogens. 



Gabrielle Barbarite   Gabrielle Barbarite

Graduate Student

Dr. Gabrielle Barbarite is a successful Pathways Student who completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology at FAU in 2008 and entered the Integrative Biology Doctoral Program in 2010.  She also completed a Masters Along the Way in 2015.  As a Ph.D. student in the McCarthy lab, Dr. Barbarite’s research focus was marine microbiology and ecosystem health.  Her dissertation research on Vibrio vulnificus helped to educate an anxious South Florida community.  Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that has caused three local deaths in the past four years after victims came into contact with Indian River Lagoon water.  Dr. Barbarite’s study was the first to systematically examine pathogenic vibrios in the Lagoon. Her work included an assessment of Vibrio infection risk to the local recreational community, specifically anglers.  Information about the study, including frequently asked questions and safety tips, is available at