Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Science and Mathematics


Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Meiyin Wu

Committee Member

Lee Lee

Committee Member

Yang Deng

Committee Member

Nick Procopio


Urbanization, industrialization, and climate change have played a major role in the pollution of waterways, leading to a global increasing trend of harmful algal blooms (HAB) while jeopardizing water quality. Phytoplankton and HAB were evaluated within the highly urbanized and historically polluted state of New Jersey to help provide statewide baseline data for HAB and water quality management. A total of three studies were included in this dissertation. In the first study, phytoplankton communities were characterized in freshwaters of New Jersey during the cyanobacterial HAB season and their relationships to water quality at both statewide and ecoregion levels were examined. This information was critical since there existed little knowledge of freshwater phytoplankton in New Jersey. Results showed that cyanobacteria were present in most of the selected waterbodies with urbanized ecoregions having higher nutrients and cyanobacteria. Furthermore, results showed that the fluorescence of phycocyanin could be used as a proxy for cyanobacterial HAB conditions. Continuous cyanobacterial HAB monitoring efforts should extend to include colder seasons to help improve management strategies. The second study documented cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in selected source waters of five New Jersey drinking water treatment plants. Results showed that cyanobacteria were present in all source waters along with high total phosphorus concentrations exceeding the New Jersey Surface Water Quality Standards, and suggesting these waters are susceptible to future cyanobacterial HAB events. Active monitoring of New Jersey source waters is crucial to lessen the public health’s risk of exposure to cyanobacterial HAB. Lastly, in the third study, water quality and HAB were evaluated along the five rivers and two bays across the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (Estuary). Results showed that most rivers in the Estuary have more favorable water quality conditions for phytoplankton and HAB to grow. To improve management strategies of the Estuary, focus should be placed on addressing water quality and pollution in these rivers and bays while conducting long-term monitoring. Overall, the results of this study provide insight into the statewide phytoplankton and HAB conditions as an attempt to address eutrophication factors and water quality degradation in the highly urbanized state of New Jersey.

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