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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Kodner, Robin

Second Advisor

Fullerton, Heather

Third Advisor

Moyer, Craig L.

Fourth Advisor

Strom, Suzanne L., 1959-


Coastal estuaries are highly dynamic environments. Due to a multitude of environmental variables, microbial communities in these systems are generally complex and difficult to predict. A majority of studies in estuaries have focused on relating environmental factors to changes in community response through indirect measurements such as biomass or chlorophyll. Though these studies are important for our understanding of these systems, they treat community members as a “black box” by focusing on the environmental input and biological output of the system on a broad scale. However, community composition and diversity dictates how cohabitants respond to both environmental stimuli and each other, which in turn impacts their community-level response. We utilized high throughput sequencing of the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene to phylogenetically characterize the diversity of microbial eukaryotes in a coastal estuary located in the Northeastern Salish Sea, and explore spatial and temporal patterns in community structure. Sampling was carried out daily to biweekly for four years during the summer seasons of 2013 to 2016. While diatoms and dinoflagellates were found to be the most abundant amplicon sequences in our samples, there was a diverse assemblage of less represented amplicon sequences that showed spatial and temporal patterns. We also found that our assessment of stability in this system varied based on timescale. Our results highlight the importance of repeated sampling to characterize microbial eukaryotes in dynamic environments, and the importance of including small and/or rare taxa in future ecological studies of these systems. We also discuss current challenges and limitations of this methodological approach to evaluate microbial eukaryotes.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Microbial ecology--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay; Estuarine biology--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay; Eukaryotic cells--Phylogeny; Microbial diversity--Washington (State)--Bellingham Bay

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham Bay (Wash.)




masters theses




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