Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Meiyin Wu

Committee Member

Lee Lee

Committee Member

Matthew Schuler


In 2019, an unknown shell disease was reported in Northern red-bellied turtles (Pseudemys rubriventris), a freshwater turtle species with a range that mainly includes southern New Jersey through North Carolina. This study investigates the effects of harmful cyanobacterial blooms on the vulnerability to shell disease of freshwater Northern red-bellied turtles (Pseudemys rubriventris) in New Jersey by characterizing and enumerating cyanobacteria in lake water and within the epizoic community with a goal to provide data-driven recommendations for P.rubriventris conservation. Phytoplankton community composition and cyanotoxinconcentration were measured in two affected lakes (Daretown Lake and Elmer Lake) and one unaffected lake (Lake Fred) in Salem and Ocean counties, New Jersey. These measures were examined to determine whether the presence of potentially toxin-producing cyanobacteria had any effect on the occurrence of shell disease in these turtles. In addition to water samples, epizoic community was examined and cyanotoxins were measured from samples collected from turtle shells. Results indicate that cyanobacteria may increase the vulnerability of P. rubriventris to the shell disease. In general, cyanobacteria density and cyanotoxin concentrations were greater in water and epizoic samples collected from the affected lakes than the unaffected lake. Additionally, epizoic samples collected from turtles afflicted with shell disease were found to contain significantly greater cyanobacteria density than samples collected from healthy turtles, suggesting epizoic cyanobacteria growth may be the cause of shell diseases of P. rubriventris in New Jersey.

File Format


Included in

Biology Commons