Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Stephen P. McIninch

Second Advisor

Greg C. Garman

Third Advisor

Edward R. Crawford


Fish assemblages are often assessed as a biological proxy for environmental health. While humans value healthy environments for the ecosystem services and recreational opportunities they provide, it is increasingly evident that such resources can be paradoxically degraded by anthropogenic activities. In this investigation, we studied the relationship between different intensities of anthropogenic land-use change and habitat-driven fish assemblage response across multiple spatiotemporal scales. Secondarily, we explored the efficacy of eDNA metabarcoding against conventional electrofishing techniques for the purpose of describing complete fish communities. This study was conducted in the Tuckahoe Creek basin near Richmond, Virginia. This James River tributary serves as an optimal case-study due to a myriad of land-use changes that have continued to occur throughout the basin, in conjunction with a diverse fish assemblage that has been studied across a unique fisheries dataset that originated in 1869. Our findings indicate that fish assemblage dynamics are driven by localized, low-intensity development, and are therefore longitudinally discontinuous throughout the Tuckahoe Creek basin. Further, we observed that eDNA metabarcoding outperformed electrofishing in determining fish biodiversity throughout the system.


© Timothy M. Owen

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