Principal Investigator

Peter McCarthy, Ph.D.
Research Professor
Associate Director for Education

Dr. Peter McCarthy was educated in England and received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Kent at Canterbury. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Smith Kline Beckman working with the Natural Products Discovery group, Dr. McCarthy joined Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in 1985 and is currently a Research Professor in the Marine Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Group. His research program has two main goals: the discovery of novel natural products produced by microbes that may have utility as therapeutic agents, and understanding the microbial populations of the Indian River Lagoon and their impact on human health.

The discovery of marine natural products from marine invertebrates and microbes has led to a long-term project focused on the identification of the symbiotic microbes present in deep-water marine sponges and the development of novel isolation methods to increase the numbers of microbes that can be cultured. This has resulted in the development of an extensive culture collection currently numbering over 19,000 isolates. The group works closely with the Marine Natural Products Chemistry group in the isolation and identification of chemicals produced by the unusual microbes with the goal of discovering new therapies for cancer and infectious diseases.

The microbiology of the Indian River Lagoon and its watershed has become the second focus of research projects which include: investigating the sources of microbial pollutants in the waterways; studying the incidence of pathogenic bacteria in the environment and their impact on human health; developing methods to cultivate the pathogenic fungus Lacazia loboi ; and studying the ecology and biogeography of ciliates, a group of large single-celled eukaryotes.

Protect wild dolphins plate Save our seas plate

Some of this research is funded by proceeds from Florida's Protect Wild Dolphins and Save Our Seas specialty license plates.

Current Grants and Recent Projects:

Sales of Protect Wild Dolphins and Save Our Seas Florida specialty license plates

A Collaborative Study of Bacterial Contamination of the Indian River Lagoon
The goal of the project is to determine to level of microbial pollution of the Indian River Lagoon.

Sales of Protect Wild Dolphins Florida specialty license plates

Methods for the analysis and cultivation of Lacazia loboi
The goal of the project is to develop methods to cultivate and enumerate Lacazia loboi, a pathogen of the dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon.

National Institutes of Health

Novel Antimalarials from Marine Microbial Natural Products
The goal of this project is to discover novel anti-malarial agents from marine microbes.

Major Agrochemical Company

Pilot Project to Find Agricultural Chemicals from Marine Microbes:
The goal of this project is to screen extracts of marine microbes for activity in a variety of agricultural uses.


HBOI ocean fish