Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Microbiology




Tin-Chun Chu

Committee Member

Carolyn S. Bentivegna

Committee Member

Marian Glenn

Committee Member

Allan Blake

Committee Member

Jane Ko


Barnegat Bay, phytoplankton, cyanobacteria, algal bloom, flow cytometry, Synechococcus


Barnegat Bay is a marine estuary that encompasses 670-square miles of the eastern coast of New Jersey. The bay serves as a home to thousands of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms. During the summer months, the population of the bay increases from 576,000 to over 1.5 million residents. In 2011, the Barnegat Bay Partnership reported that environmental conditions of the bay are declining due to increased pollutants from nutrient fertilizers and runoff. Increased nitrogen levels have led to eutrophication and proliferation of phytoplankton algal blooms. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) cause a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels in the water as well as the release of harmful toxins that affect organisms inhabiting the bay, including humans.

To research and develop methods to prevent HABs from occurring, 16 Barnegat Bay sites ranging from the northern to southern regions of the bay were studied in order identify species of cyanobacteria, such as Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, and other phytoplankton such as diatoms and dinoflagellates. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), microscopy, and flow cytometry were utilized to generate profiles of each site. Collectively, the utilization of the three methods detected phytoplankton species such as Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and Cylindrotheca fusiformis. Viral plaque assays using viral lysate from each site detected the presence of cyanophage as a natural control for phytoplankton populations.