Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

Committee Director

Daniel M. Dauer

Committee Member

Jessica S. Thompson

Committee Member

G. Richard Whittecar


Recent efforts to mitigate environmental issues within the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, Virginia, designated a “Region of Concern” by the Chesapeake Bay Program, include several salt marsh restorations. By examining gut contents and stable isotopes values (δ13C and δ15N) from mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus), the functional equivalency of restored salt marshes compared to natural marshes was measured. In July 2013 I collected mummichogs from three restored and three reference salt marshes in the Southern Branch. Fish were collected for gut content analysis and were analyzed for stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N).

I removed gut contents from 16 fish per site to measure gut fullness and identify diet composition. Muscle and liver tissue were removed from additional fish and prepared for stable isotope analysis at UC Davis. The diet composition of the restored salt marsh sites included blue-green algae as a major diet item, which was not the case in the reference marshes. The average δ13C values were higher from the restored salt marshes and the average δ15N values were similar between treatments. The diet composition and stable isotope analysis indicate that many of the same food items were found at the restored marshes as the reference marshes, but the restored marshes had not reached the same functional level as the reference marshes.