Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Gregory C. Garman

Second Advisor

Stephen P. McIninch

Third Advisor

Paul A. Bukaveckas


With the global rise in frequency of harmful algal blooms in estuarine environments comes an increase in prevalence of toxic metabolites, such as microcystin (MC), that some of the cyanobacteria involved will produce. At high concentrations, MC may accumulate in consumer tissues and have deleterious effects on organisms; however impacts of the toxin on aquatic living resources at ecologically relevant concentrations have not been widely documented. We analyzed the effects of MC on juveniles of five fish species from the James River, Virginia to determine if MC has the potential to impede growth. Using three separate experimental approaches, it was shown that exposure to concentrations of the toxin currently observed in the James River estuary do not appear to significantly impact the growth or survivorship of tested fish species. Extraneous factors in parts of the study led to an inability to draw clear conclusions on mortality or growth impacts; however it is evident from the experiments that at least some of the fish species have biological mechanisms in place that allow them to effectively eliminate the toxin from their systems. An ability to extricate the toxin suggests the possibility for fishes to withstand MC exposures and sustain few negative health impacts at low MC concentrations.


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