Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Paula G. Coble, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kendall L. Carder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cynthia A. Heil, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark E. Luther, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ashanti J. Pyrtle, Ph.D.


Dissolved organic carbon, Fluorescence, West Florida Shelf, Groundwater


Characterization of Colored Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) in surface and ground waters in South Florida was conducted using fluorescence and absorption spectroscopy. Waters of the West Florida Shelf are heavily influenced by many river systems on Florida's Gulf Coast that, to the first order control CDOM distributions on the shelf. Seasonal surveys revealed that changes in the underwater light field as a result of major hurricanes and resuspension events are linked closely with a number of factors prior to a storm's passing such as the presence of persistant blooms, rainfall and discharge. Additionally, storm track and wind direction were found to play a significant role in CDOM signatures.

A study of ten riversheds located between the Mississippi / Atchafalya River system and the Shark River in the Everglades revealed a wide range in CDOM seasonality.

A regional dependence of CDOM was also found, where highest aromaticity and concentration of organic material was found for the southernmost watersheds. Basin characteristics, vegetation differences, land use and climatic patterns are implicated in the cause for regional differences. In addition to surface flow, organic material in groundwater was measured in deep and shallow aquifers surrounding the Tampa Bay Estuary. As a result of strong hydrologic links between shallow aquifers and the overlying surface waters, CDOM in both reservoirs were found to be quite similar. Deep aquifers (> 150 ft) however are less concentrated and have CDOM signatures more similar to marine waters. This suggests similar biogeochemical pathways of the material, including the influence of the aquatic microbial community. Furthermore, multi-spectral CDOM fluorescence measurements were shown to be a potential indicator of groundwater presence in Tampa Bay during times of low surficial discharge to the bay, and when some rivers are almost entirely spring-fed.

Investigating CDOM distribution and signatures is vital to carbon budget and cycling questions. The amount and quality of organic material has significant implications for ecosystems, thereby affecting organisms that use CDOM as a food source, light availability for photosynthesis, UV shading provided to biota, satellite estimates of chlorophyll a, metal binding, materials transport and overall water quality.