Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Mark Moline


The occurrence of phytoplankton taxa, with special focus on harmful algal bloom (HAB) taxa, was monitored for one year off the central coast of California to examine both their co-occurrence and physical and chemical variables influencing their temporal patterns. Bi-weekly samples were taken from October 6, 2008 to October 5, 2009 in San Luis Obispo Bay, CA. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of weekly samples indicated that 46.1% of the variability in species abundance was explained by the variables in the model, higher than previous reports. Cluster analysis divided phytoplankton communities into HAB and non-HAB groups of species, while shared distribution analysis identified specific co-occurring species of HABs. The HAB dinoflagellate group consisted exclusively of HAB taxa, including Cochlodinium polykrikoides Margalef, Dinophysis acuminata Claparède & Lachmann, and Alexandrium spp., and was correlated with a homogeneous water column and high nitrate concentration during the fall and winter seasons. The domoic acid producing diatoms Pseudo-nitzschia seriata (Cleve) H. Peragallo complex and Pseudo-nitzschia delicatissima (Cleve) Heiden complex grouped with several other non-HAB diatoms, and were correlated with warm, thermally stratified waters of the summer season. These results contradict the classic diatom / dinoflagellate succession theory and suggest that event-scale processes influencing water column stability within seasons may influence the distribution of HAB species in near shore upwelling dominated regions.