Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Michael A. Kruge

Committee Member

Matthew Gorring

Committee Member

Sandra Passchier


As one of the largest estuarine systems in the northeastern United States, Long Island Sound (LIS) has been exposed to human activities for many centuries. Human settlement and population growth in the last 200 years has caused heavy pollution in LIS through inland and shore industrial and municipal releases. The geochemistry of one sediment core and numerous surface sediment samples were analyzed using environmental forensic techniques. This study employed use of pyrolysis gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) in conjunction with previously analyzed geochemical and radiometric data to study contamination sources and patterns though LIS. Geochemical analysis of samples was focused on determination of anthropogenic sources of organic material, which included indication of petrogenic or pyrogenic signatures of observed hydrocarbons.

Data collected and analysis of vinylguaiacol to indole ratio (VGI ratio) suggest increased terrestrial sediment input starting in mid 1800’s, along with increasing ratio values of PAHs such as ANT/(ANT+PHN) and FLA/(FLA+PYR), which both point to an increased input of pyrogenic sources. This is further correlated with data presented by Varekamp and co-workers, which show increasing levels of TOC, nitrogen, mercury and the fecal bacterium Clostridium perfringens. These data sets all indicate increased anthropogenic activity in the LIS. Analysis of recent surface sediment samples presents facts supporting continuing influx of contaminants mainly from the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers.

Data from analyzed samples was further complicated by the very strong presence of sample contamination in both surface and core samples, not to be mistaken for the environmental • pollution of the analyzed sediment. The source of this sample contamination in thought to originate from sample handling during collection storage or analysis. A forensic approach was taken by which these contaminants were identified and their contributions subtracted from the working dataset.

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