Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Episodic turbulence is a short-lived, high-intensity phenomenon in marine environments produced by both anthropogenic and natural causes, such as boat propellers, strong winds, and breaking waves. Episodic turbulence has been shown to cause mortality in zooplankton, but its effects on marine phytoplankton have rarely been investigated. This study focused on two diatoms: Thalassiosira weissflogii and Skeletonema costatum. I found that exposure for 45 s to turbulence intensities above 2.5 cm2 s-3 caused 24-32% reduction in diatom abundance and increased the amount of intact dead cells to 22%. Turbulence also caused extracellular release of optically reactive DOM. At a turbulence level of 4.0 cm2 s-3, photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm) decreased from 0.51 to 0.38 and 0.55 to 0.50 in T. weissflogii and S. costatum respectively. These turbulence levels are comparable to those under breaking surface waves and are much smaller than those generated by boat propellers.

Despite its relatively short duration, episodic turbulence has the potential to affect phytoplankton via lethal and sublethal effects. An improved technique using the Evans Blue stain was developed to enable visual live/dead plankton cell determinations. When used in conjunction with preservation and flow cytometry, this staining method allows the study of phytoplankton mortality due to turbulence and other environmental stresses.



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