Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Jim Gelsleichter

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrew Evans

Department Chair

Dr. Cliff Ross

College Dean

Dr. Daniel Moon


The goal of this study was to examine the potential health effects of organochlorine (OC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure on Atlantic stingray populations in Florida’s St. Johns River (SJR). Special emphasis was placed on identifying OC- and/or PAH-related effects in stingrays from areas of the lower (LSJR) and middle (MSJR) basins shown to possess elevated levels of these compounds, as well as characterizing baseline levels of pollutant exposure in the SJR shipping channel, which may be subjected to dredging in the near future, potentially resuspending and redistributing contaminated sediments and increasing pollutant-associated effects. To accomplish this, we measured OC and PAH biomarker levels in stingrays collected from contaminated and reference sites. We specifically examined the phase I detoxification enzyme, cytochrome P4501a1 (CYP1a1); the phase II detoxification enzymes, glutathione-S-transferase (GST) and uridine 5’-diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase (UGT); fluorescent aromatic compounds, PAH bile metabolites; and lipid peroxidation (LPO), cell membrane damage. Biomarker values collected between 2014 and 2016 were compared by site. Detoxification enzyme activity and LPO values from individuals collected from the three MSJR lakes between 2002 and 2005 were compared to those collected between 2014 and 2016. The data suggested that biomarker values from the SJR were variable, with elevated levels from Lake Jesup. Compared to reference estuaries, the LSJR has low biomarker values. This indicates that residing in certain portions of the MSJR is detrimental to stingray health, while residing in the LSJR is not. Lake Monroe and Lake George biomarker levels indicated reduced contaminant input over time, whereas Lake Jesup biomarker levels suggested the opposite. This study has developed a baseline for biomarker levels in the LSJR, allowing for the identification of dredging-induced changes to the system, and has identified temporal changes in biomarker levels from three MSJR lakes.