Date of Award

Winter 12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. Leila J. Hamdan

Committee Chair School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 2

Dr. Joe Griffitt

Committee Member 2 School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 3

Dr. Chet Rakocinski

Committee Member 3 School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 4

Dr. Jason Lee


The marine built environment (i.e., places or things made or modified by humans) in the northern Gulf of Mexico is rapidly expanding and includes over 2,000 known historic shipwrecks, nearly 4,100 artificial reefs, and other built structures for natural resource extraction, marine aquaculture, renewable energy generation, munitions dumping areas, and commercial and recreational activities. While these structures have the potential to develop into artificial reefs, acting as biodiversity hotspots that provide food and shelter and facilitate organism transport, it is unclear how they affect biodiversity and ecosystem function in the marine environment. The success of artificial reefs to become ecosystems is dependent upon the primary-colonizing biofilms; however, little is known about microbiome formation and recruitment to marine biofilms. The goal of this study was to investigate how built structures provoke biofilm growth on new surfaces. Biofilm microbiomes were recruited to steel surfaces placed near built structures in the Gulf of Mexico and during experimental exposures in the lab and analyzed for taxonomic composition and metabolic function. Results show biofilm communities change over time, with material type, and in association with structure proximity or substrate density. These data contribute new knowledge on how anthropogenic activity impacts the dynamics of microbiomes on the seabed.