Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Biology




Carolyn Bentivegna, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Angela Klaus, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Allan Blake, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wyatt R. Murphy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heping Zhou, Ph.D.


PAHs, fluorescence, menhaden, proto-oncogene, v-rel, polymorphisms


Hurricane Sandy critically damaged the Atlantic coast of New Jersey in the fall of 2012. This was recorded as the largest storm to hit the Atlantic Ocean, which was manifested by its destruction on the homes and communities of those along the coastline. Contamination of surrounding waters due to this natural disaster was of great interest. The re-suspension of land-based pollution is proposed to make these contaminants more bioavailable to coastal species, such as Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which are a crucial biomonitoring species through their ecological and economic uses. A proposed increase of body burdens in Atlantic menhaden could affect human health through toxicity in the aquatic food chain via consumption of other marine species.

Atlantic menhaden were caught off the shores of the Atlantic coast surrounding New Jersey and were dissected for their raw fish oil, which was extracted from the oily-natured skin and studied with fluorescence spectroscopy to identify the presence of possible contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Different levels of PAH-like substances were identified in catches from 2011, 2012, and 2013. Genomic analysis was used to study the effects of PAH-like substances on cancer-related genes, specifically proto-oncogene v-Rel (V-Rel Avian Reticuloendotheliosis Viral Oncogene Homolog). The presence of polymorphisms in v-Rel was studied in the previously caught Atlantic menhaden exposed to PAH pollution along the coastline of New Jersey.

Analysis of the results indicated that there was no statistical difference in PAH-like compound concentrations or fluorescence patterns of raw fish oils collected before and after Hurricane Sandy. Excitation-Emission Matrix Scanning (EEMS) scans of raw fish oil from catches exposed to high amounts of PAH-like substances showed strong fluorescent signals yet few isomers and high genetic relatedness via gel electrophoresis analysis. EEM scans of raw fish oil with low and decreased fluorescence signals showed prominent bands with extreme variability, resulting in evident polymorphisms. It was found that high PAH concentration samples were associated together with low v-Rel variability and low PAH concentration samples were associated together with high v-Rel variability.