HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Alexander Soloviev

Second Advisor

Aurelien Tartar

Third Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Fourth Advisor

Brian Haus


Several genera of bacteria residing in the sea surface microlayer and in the near-surface layer of the ocean have been found to be involved in the production and decay of surfactants. Under low wind speed conditions, surfactants can suppress short gravity capillary waves at the sea surface and form natural sea slicks. These features can be observed with both airborne and satellite-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Using a new microlayer sampling method, a series of experiments have been conducted in the Straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico in 2013 to establish a connection between the presence of surfactant-associated bacteria in the upper layer of the ocean and sea slicks. In a number of cases, sampling coincided with TerraSAR-X and RADARSAT-2 satellite overpasses to obtain SAR images of each study site. Samples collected from slick and non slick conditions have been analyzed using real time PCR techniques to determine Bacillus relative abundance in each area sampled. Previous work has shown that the sea surface microlayer plays a role in air-sea gas exchange, sea surface temperature, climate-active aerosol production, biochemical cycling, as well as the dampening of ocean capillary waves. Determining the effect of surfactant-associated bacteria on the state of the sea surface may help provide a more complete global picture of biophysical processes at the air-sea interface and uptake of greenhouse gases by the ocean.

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