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Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Ponton, Camilo

Second Advisor

Grossman, Eric E.

Third Advisor

Foreman, Brady


Understanding sediment sources and fluxes throughout coastal zones is essential to evaluate shoreline stability, ecosystem health, and the potential for carbon storage. In Bellingham Bay, WA, like many developed coastal settings, urban areas have replaced forested cover and altered sediment fluxes, yet little is known of their offshore impacts. I analyzed n-alkanes, found in plant leaf waxes preserved in marine sediments of Bellingham Bay to characterize sediment sources and reconstruct changes in the relative contributions of eelgrass beds to sedimentary organic matter since pre-industrial times using a linear mixing model. Eight 2-meter-long cores were analyzed in order to determine how sediment sources have changed spatially throughout Bellingham Bay. Terrestrial plants contributed the majority of the organic matter to marine sediments in Bellingham Bay. n-Alkane biomarkers show a clear increase in terrestrial sources since pre-industrial times to modern day. The relative contribution of eelgrass to sedimentary organic matter peaked at 28% at a depth of 80 cm, which roughly correlates with the year 1712, and has been in steady decline since. This research has been conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound Project, which is examining the impacts of sediment transport on local marine environments. Results from my study show how eelgrass biomarker relative abundances corelate with long-term changes in carbon storage.




eelgrass, n-alkane, biomarker, Bellingham Bay, urbanization, plant waxes, sediment sources


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Biochemical markers--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay; Eelgrass--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay; Urbanization--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay; Marine sediments--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham Bay (Wash.)




masters theses




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