Date of Award

Spring 3-26-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Biology


Language/Literature /Culture


Carolyn Bentivegna, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tin-Chun Chu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marian Glenn, Ph.D

Committee Member

Allan D. Blake, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jane L. Ko, Ph.D


poly aromatic hydrocarbons, menhaden, crude oil, urban sources


The April 2010 BP® oil spill has caused great concern for ecological impacts in the Gulf of Mexico. Crude oil contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) and oil spills increase the exposure of aquatic organisms to this class of chemicals. The overall detrimental health effects associated with PAH exposure depend on the exposure period, the concentration of PAHs, and the toxicity of the PAHs in the mixture. Brevoortia tyrannus and Brevoortia patronus are filter feeding fish commonly known as menhaden and account for over 40% of the commercial industry fisheries catch. As primary consumers, they are a major link in the food chain. In this study, liver metabolites of PAHs were measured in menhaden using fixed emission fluorescence spectroscopy (FEFS). Liver PAH analyses were performed on fish samples from North Atlantic to Gulf coasts with the anticipation of comparing a BP® oil signature with ones from urban environments. Adult menhaden were collected from Delaware Bay, NJ (September 2010-September 2011), James River, Virginia (November 2010), Grand Isle, Louisiana (September 2010- September 2011), and Vermillion Bay, Louisiana (June 2011-October 2011). The findings of this study show that a high Naphthol-like/Hydroxypyrene-like ratio is indicative of petroleum exposure. The Barataria Bay (BB), LA 2010 and 2011 samples, Vermillion Bay, LA 2011 samples, and Delaware Bay, NJ 2010 and 2011 data all showed evidence of PAH exposure. The difference of HNP-like and HPY-like PAHs at BBLA from 2010 to 2011 indicated that the site was affected. This indicated continuing exposure to DWH crude oil one year after the event. In addition, there was seasonal correlation for HNP-like vs HPY-like PAHs across the different sample sites. The accumulation of PAHs was site and/or season related and not due to the age of the fish. B. tyrannus and B. patronus species were found to have similar types and concentrations of PAHs despite sample location and can serve as a useful tool to monitor PAH exposure over time. Results suggested that menhaden could be a useful biomonitoring organism regardless of species.