Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Kendra Daly, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Luther, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Claire Paris, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Jones, Ph.D.


beta diversity, Centropages, ecosystem resiliency, Mississippi River, multivariate, river discharge


In the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, relating changes in zooplankton communities to environmental factors is crucial to understanding the marine ecosystem and impacts of perturbations such as oil spills on marine ecosystems. Zooplankton samples were collected each year between 2005–2014 in spring and summer in the vicinity of the oil spill (Deepwater Horizon) that occurred in spring 2010. Zooplankton assemblages and environmental conditions significantly differed seasonally, driven by strong variations in zooplankton at continental shelf stations, and by environmental factors including Mississippi River discharge, wind direction, temperature, and chlorophyll concentrations. Total zooplankton abundances were greatest at shelf stations, intermediate at slope stations, and lowest at offshore stations. Seasonal separation was driven by greater abundances of crab zoea, cladocerans, ostracods, and the copepod, Eucalanus spp. during summer. Copepods, Centropages spp., were significant indicators of summer conditions both before and after the oil spill.

Sub-regional comparisons in percent composition and abundances of six major non-copepod and seven copepod taxa revealed that most taxa either remained the same or significantly increased in abundance following the spill. A significant decrease in post oil spill taxa was observed only during spring for total copepods, Eucalanaus spp., and for salps at continental slope stations, however varying processing techniques used for zooplankton before and after the spill were employed and should be considered. . Based on our sampling periods, these results indicate that the 2010 oil spill did not significantly impact zooplankton communities in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.