Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Paul A. X. Bologna

Committee Member

Matthew Schuler

Committee Member

John Gaynor


Estuaries are biologically diverse and productive marine ecosystems, but many have been degraded as a result of anthropogenic activity, which can also negatively impact sensitive aquatic organisms like zooplankton. Zooplankton represent the crucial link between phytoplankton and higher trophic-level organisms. They are sensitive to environmental variation and increasing water temperature can cause dramatic shifts in zooplankton community structure. Climate change and coastal development favor species that are more tolerant of poor water quality. Barnegat Bay, New Jersey is an eutrophied estuarine lagoon in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean region. A major stress on Barnegat Bay was the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (OCNGS), which relied on water from the bay for cooling. Power plants entrain organisms in the cooling process and discharge waste heat as thermal pollution, which can negatively impact planktonic community structure. OCNGS operation began in 1969 and closed in September 2018. The objective of this research was to assess the zooplankton community structure of Barnegat Bay in the year prior to and the year following the closure of OCNGS to determine its impacts on coastal zooplankton communities. The results show site-specific increases in the abundance of the scyphozoan C. chesapeakei, the ctenophore M. leidyi, and several zooplankton taxa including calanoid copepods, Brachyura larvae, and Caridea larvae. There was also a significant increase in the abundance of fish eggs along with larval Atlantic Silverside and Bay Anchovy, two important estuarine fish species. Overall, the closure of OCNGS appears to have reduced a significant stress on numerous zooplankton species within the Barnegat Bay estuary, but longerterm studies are necessary to determine whether populations will recover or if permanent community shifts have occurred.

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