Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Michael Heithaus

First Advisor's Committee Title

Main Advisor/Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Gary Rand

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member & outside department member

Third Advisor's Name

Jose Eirin-Lopez

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Heather Bracken-Grissom

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kevin Boswell

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


ecotoxicology, Deepwater Horizon, aquatic toxicology, native indigenous species, risk assessment, swim performance, stress index, Nematostella vectensis

Date of Defense



Research in the multidisciplinary science of ecotoxicology is crucial to assess injuries to ecosystem resources from chemical spills or other stressors used to support environmental decision-making. Established guidelines recommend the use of non-standard native species in toxicity investigations. This work focused on the use of native species for aquatic toxicity assessment to make more relevant conclusions on the potential for adverse biological effects to occur as a result to single chemical exposures or exposures to a complex mixture like oil. We apply these studies to investigate petroleum product impacts from the Deepwater Horizon incident and concerns for metal toxicity in estuarine environments using a new model organism. Data generated from comprehensive toxicity testing programs were used in the first probabilistic risk assessment of Deepwater Horizon oil toxicity highlighting a lack of appropriate data and representative phyla. Novel toxicity study methods and a stress-response index were developed and demonstrated sensitivity and success in using the starlet anemone in ecotoxicology studies. Swim performance was used as new method to investigate sublethal indicators of stress resulting in varied responses from sheepshead minnows and Florida pompano. These studies further our ability for better laboratory-to-field extrapolation and for decision-making. The use of native species and complex mixtures like oil presented novel challenges in conducting aquatic toxicity studies. Special emphasis is placed on the necessity to understand the appropriate laboratory conditions for native species not typically held in the laboratory and maintaining study parameters to obtain quality data for more accurate interpretation and replication.




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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