Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Document Type



In this study, phytoplankton community and carbon dynamics were examined in the optically complex estuarine-coastal regions of the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM) from field and satellite ocean color observations. As part of this study, bio-optical ocean color algorithms for i) dissolved organic carbon (DOC), ii) phytoplankton pigment composition, iii) adaptive estimation of Chl a and iv) phytoplankton size fractions were developed to facilitate the study of biogeochemical cycling in the nGOM.

The phytoplankton based algorithms were applied to Sentinel 3A/B-OLCI oean color data to assess phytoplankton community dynamics to extreme river discharge conditions as well as hurricanes in the nGOM. This study revealed that the effects of hurricanes on phytoplankton community dynamics were dependent on background nutrient conditions, as well as the intensity, track and translational speed of storms: 1) Strong flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey (2017) shifted the dominance of phytoplankton community in Galveston Bay from cyanobacteria and dinoflagellate to diatom and chlorophyte; 2) high levels of organic matter delivered from estuaries to shelf waters after Hurricane Michael (2018) fueled a red tide mixed with coccolithophore bloom in the nGoM; 3) the physical and chemical environment after hurricanes are favorable for the growth and dominance of coccolithophores in shelf waters. Further, microphytoplankton mainly controlled by freshwater inflows showed dominance in estuaries of the nGoM, with highest/lowest values observed in spring/fall. In comparison, phytoplankton size fraction (PSF) dynamics in the midshelf and offshore waters of the nGoM are strongly influenced by Loop Current (LC) expansion, and eddy shedding with highest picophytoplankton fraction observed in the warm waters of LC.

DOC dynamics was studied using an empirical algorithm that was developed and applied to multiple satellite sensors (Landsat 5 TM and MODIS-Aqua) to assess multi-decadal (1985-2012) DOC trends in Barataria Basin. The linkages between DOC and environmenal variations were investigated. The relationships between satellite-derived DOC and land cover variations (1985–2011) derived from Landsat-5 TM supervised classification indicate soil loss in the salt marsh to be an important DOC source in the wetland-estuary system, and overall strong land use/land loss impact on the long-term DOC trends in the Barataria Basin.



Committee Chair

D'Sa, Eurico

Included in

Oceanography Commons