Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Kristi Foster

Second Advisor

Donald McCorquodale


Exposure to harmful algal bloom (HAB) toxins, such as Karenia brevis, has been linked to cetacean strandings and mortalities. Biological and environmental data from a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Unusual Mortality Event (UME) in 2004 are compared to those from pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) mass stranding events in 2013-2014 in western Florida. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) maps have been created by overlaying stranding locations and select K. brevis presence data in order to identify common spatial and temporal trends. Preliminary results indicate that elevated K. brevis levels (>10,000 cells/L) in Sarasota Bay during January-February and November may be predictive of stranding events in the following 2-9 weeks for bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales, respectively. Further development and refinement of this model to project the timing and location of potential stranding events may allow conservation managers and first responders to proactively stage equipment, accelerate response times, and increase live mammal rescues.