HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Jose Lopez

Second Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder

Third Advisor

David Willoughby

Fourth Advisor

Scott NIchols


In order to study the potential effects of an oil spill on coral reef organisms, the marine sponge, Cinachyrella spp. was investigated. In this study, Cinachyrella spp. was placed in a closed aquaculture system and exposed to sub-lethal water-accommodated fractions (WAFs) of Macondo crude oil and chemically-enhanced water accommodated fractions (CE-WAFs) of the dispersant, Corexit 9500, over a 24-hour time course, in order to model the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and oil spill sponge response. Illumina RNA sequencing and gene expression analysis utilizing hierarchical clustering, principal component analysis, and KEGG bioinformatic database generated 34,147 unique transcripts with differential expression of 483 transcripts across all samples related to metabolism, genetic, environmental, and cellular processes, and associations with pathways involved in human disease development and progression. These pathways highlight the induction of Rac1, a GTPase in the Ras superfamily responsible for cell proliferation, differentiation, and senescence and SOS, a set of specialized Ras-GTP activators. These Ras-regulated signaling proteins are thought to play a significant role in the development of human malignancies, specifically Rac1. The data reported here helps support the possible role of Cinachyrella spp. as an ecotoxicological model for oil and dispersant pollution as well as the identification of potential biomarkers of stress and environmental perturbation. These results have important implications in identifying stress response in coral reef associated communities, and will ultimately be useful in coral reef conservation, management, and oil spill mitigation activities.


Funding provided by a Florida Institute of Oceanography $200K grant from a $10M block grant awarded from BP and an NSU Chancellor’s Faculty Research and Development grant awarded to Dr. Joe Lopez.

  Link to NovaCat