Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

James Campanella

Committee Member

Paul A. X. Bologna

Committee Member

Scott Kight

Committee Member

Quinn C. Vega


Zoster a marina (eelgrass), can be found in the North Atlantic on the coast of Europe and the North Arctic, as well as the Pacific. On the Atlantic west coast this species grows as far south as North Carolina and into northern Canada. The cold waters of these regions support the habitat needed for the species. Eelgrass is vital to coastal communities. It serves as a food source for many organisms, hatching ground for fish species, absorbent of water pollutants, and soil stabilizer. Over the last 30 years, the once robust populations of Atlantic west coast eelgrass have withered into sparse patchy regions due to the effects of pollution, disease, brown tide, increasing water temperatures, and increasing water turbidity. We have analyzed the genetic population structure of Atlantic west coast Zostera marina, using microsatellite DNA polymorphisms. We have found that genetic variation is much lower in the American populations studied than in comparable European populations. This result suggests severe future problems for the American populations if gene flow is limited and inbreeding depression occurs. There is strong evidence of bottlenecking events in Long Island populations, along with weaker evidence for such events in Chesapeake Bay. Northern Maine had the highest effective population size coupled with lowest mean number of alleles. Within the nine populations studied there seems to be little apparent gene flow among the west Atlantic populations.

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