USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)


Valerie Coulter

First Advisor

Thesis Director: Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, Ph.D., Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Second Advisor

Thesis Committee Member: Dr. Teresa Greely, Ph.D., Director Education and Outreach, College of Marine Science

Third Advisor

Thesis Committee Member: Dr. Thomas Smith, Ph.D., Honors Program Director

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued



Within Earth’s waters resides microscopic photosynthetic creatures known as algae that supply the world with about half of the entire oxygen supply. These algae consist of diatoms, dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria, and coccolithophores, all of which can be found in the Earth’s bodies of water. Their distribution depends on many environmental factors such as temperature, nutrient availability, light availability, and also on anthropogenic factors such as dams, sewage, and agriculture. Many of these algal species and groups can be used as indicator species, as they can appear when conditions are outside normal ranges. Those that are considered indicator species can be studied and documented over the years to monitor conditions in certain areas and ensure that the water quality remains in a good and healthy range. They have been used to find evidence of eutrophication in waters and to assess the trophic status of the water. Additionally, they have been used to find patterns in sea surface conditions and oceanographic changes. By understanding the different ways algae are affected and how they respond to different variables, we can gain a better idea of the health of the surrounding aquatic ecosystems.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida, St. Petersburg May 6, 2020.