Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Abigail Renegar

Second Advisor

Dr. Emily Schmitt


Coral, Tissue Regeneration, Crude Oil, Wound repair


Even though coral reefs are very important ecologically and economically, these ecosystems are sensitive to changes in the environment and susceptible to damage from human activities, such as oil spills. The risk of accidents in marine environments and, consequently, on coral reefs has increased because of the widespread usage of petroleum products. Current approaches to remediate oil contamination in marine ecosystems allow the application of chemical dispersants. However, these methods may pose a greater threat to coral reefs than the oil they are intended to mitigate. This project studied the impacts of hydrocarbon exposure on wound healing rate to assess the relative effects of this environmental stressor on coral health and the potential for recovery from physical damage. To determine how exposure to 1-methylnaphthalene (1MN), Phenanthrene (PHE), oil (WAF), and dispersed oil (CEWAF) affects wound healing, we measured tissue regeneration rates in four species of Atlantic corals. This study hypothesized that exposure to these substances would inhibit tissue regeneration. Phenanthrene exposure had the greatest effect on P. astreoides, which had the lowest mean healing rate and percent healed at 28 days post-exposure. Healing rates for P. astreoides exposed to 1MN and PHE were 2.8 times slower than corals exposed to CEWAF and WAF. There was a lower regeneration rate in P. astreoides exposed to phenanthrene was also influenced by the growth of algae. In addition to lesion-specific variables known to influence wound regeneration, hydrocarbon exposure can also affect the healing rates of corals, as shown by the results. This information can be utilized by oil spill managers to help improve nearshore coral reef spill response and mitigation.

Keywords: Coral, Tissue Regeneration, Crude Oil, Wound repair