HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Nicole D. Fogarty

Second Advisor

Esther C. Peters

Third Advisor

David Gilliam

Fourth Advisor

Donald McCorquodale


Reef-building coral populations throughout the world are being threatened by numerous stressors and continue to decline. As potent endocrine-disrupting compounds, exogenous sex steroid contamination has been a largely overlooked stressor to corals. Previous research indicates these compounds are prevalent in marine environments, fluctuate annually along with reproductive cycles, can bioaccumulate, and have had variable effects on growth and reproduction in several cnidarian species. This project had three primary objectives: (1) establish environmental estradiol and progesterone concentrations in Broward County and lower Florida Keys reef environments, (2) conduct 17 β-estradiol and progesterone larval assays on P. astreoides larvae to determine the effects of these compounds on settlement and viability, and (3) conduct 17 β-estradiol and progesterone dosing experiments on adult Acropora cervicornis and Porites astreoides fragments to determine the effects on growth, zooxanthellae, reproduction, and overall tissue health. Estradiol was detected in surface and at-depth water samples from Broward County and lower Keys reef sites at effect level concentrations for marine organisms. Broward County larvae treated with low progesterone (5 ng/L) had decreased survival, while lower Keys larvae in low estradiol treatments (1 ng/L) had increased on-disc settlement. No other treatment effects were observed, however, lower Keys larvae had greater overall survival in comparison to Broward County larvae. There were no significant differences between estradiol and progesterone treatments in the adult-dosing experiment for growth, zooxanthellae density, reproduction, and overall tissue health. This is the first study to detect estradiol at Broward County reefs sites and our results, while inconclusive, indicate these compounds may have the potential to affect coral reef ecosystems.


This research and student were supported in part by the National Science Foundation (OCE-1538469).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

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