Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Jay Grimes

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Chet Rakocinski

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Kevin Dillon

Committee Member 3 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 4

Cathie Aime


This study represents the first characterization of natural mixed-species fungal biofilm communities on artificial reefs in the marine environment. Previous fungal biofilm studies have failed to observe the naturally-occurring biodiversity in coastal areas, which comprise the most utilized zone of the marine environment. Artificial reefs can increase fishing yields, amplify oyster habitats, contribute to shoreline stabilization, promote good water quality, and deter pollution. Proper management practices of artificial reefs require knowledge of the colonization of these new habitats by marine organisms and their subsequent succession. Fungi, along with bacteria, archaea, protists, algae, and diatoms, quickly form a complex biofilm on immersed surfaces in seawater. These communities fuel many primary consumers that support artificial reef habitats. Patterns of settlement and succession should be further examined, given the major trophic implications therein, as properties of this biofilm will influence future establishment of other marine organisms. Four created artificial reefs in the Mississippi Sound representing low profile (submerged) and high profile (emergent) conditions were sampled quarterly to characterize biofilm fungal communities. Biofilm samples were analyzed to determine fungal presence by amplifying the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of fungal ribosomal DNA. Terminal fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of the ITS region was used to infer variation in fungal community structure. Fungal species were further characterized by performing morphological species identification as well as ITS gene sequencing. Significant temporal and longitudinal differences in fungal biofilm communities, as well as a weaker difference between high and low profile reef types, were detected during this study. Furthermore, the high profile reefs, Handkerchief and Katrina, were significantly different in fungal biofilm community composition between reefs across the ten sampling periods. This assessment of fungal biofilm communities yields insight into the development of artificial reef microbial succession, diversity, and function.

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