Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Paul Bologna

Committee Member

Huan Feng

Committee Member

Yang Deng


Aquatic ecosystems are showing increasing evidence of contamination by persistent, toxic substances, including metals such as mercury. Mercury (Hg) is truly an unusual element, having no essential biological function. Its unique physical properties have been utilized for various industrial and commercial purposes. This has led to serious exposure to this known neurotoxin. Additionally, the deposition and effluents of mercury in air, water, and soil have impacted food chain dynamics. The potential of bioaccumulation and biomagnification of Hg within aquatic ecosystems can have serious negative implication on ecosystem functions and services. Furthermore, understanding the difference between those pathways can provide a fundamental role in heavy metal cycling within aquatic food webs. The primary objective of this research was to establish a baseline for mercury contamination of benthic biota and sediments in the New York Wind Energy Area (NYWEA), which could be useful to the US Department of Energy for their site assessment and planning and installation of wind farms within the NYWEA. Analysis of sediment samples from 18 sampling sites was conducted to measure total Hg concentration. Station 41 (14.08 􀂗g/kg) and Station B73 (5.51 􀂗g/kg) exhibited the highest total mean Hg concentration whereas Station 27 (1.883 􀂗g/kg), Station 21 (1.821 􀂗g/kg), and Station 33 (1.7496 􀂗g/kg) exhibited the lowest total mean Hg concentration. Analysis of biota from 19 sampling sites within the NYWEA was conducted to assess total Hg concentration. The long-clawed hermit crab (Pagurus longicarpus), sand shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa), gulf stream flounder (Citharichthys arctifrons), dog whelk (Citharichthys arctifrons), and rock crab (Cancer irroratus) all exhibited significant differences in mean total Hg concentration among sampling sites. While diversity and species richness are considered good indicators of stress of contaminated systems, Hg contaminant loads observed here did not seem to influence community structure or individual species. The results of this study show that Hg contamination in both sediments and biota is present at low levels in the NYWEA, but below US Environmental Protection Agency limits. This suggests that limited Hg contamination in this region is a positive evaluation for the region and food webs in the New York Bight.