Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean, Coastal, and Earth Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. David Hicks

Second Advisor

Dr. Daniele Provenzano

Third Advisor

Dr. Erin Easton


Coral reefs are an integral tier of marine ecosystems. They provide habitat and foraging opportunities for many ecologically and economically important fishes. Protection of coral reef biodiversity and connectivity is imperative to the continued health and sustainability of marine fisheries. Mesophotic reefs, such as those found in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, have unique coral communities because of the limited light penetration at mesophotic depths (30 – 150m). Because there is limited knowledge in regards to the biodiversity of coral reefs of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico (GOM), particularly the South Texas Banks (STBs), thesis work presented here aims to improve understanding of species diversity, particularly of octocorals, through phylogenetic and morphologic analysis. By comparing this diversity data collected with previous expeditions, a baseline understanding of mesophotic octocorals and their dispersal in the northwest GOM will be expanded. This assessment will not only assist in the discovery of unknown diversity in octocoral species of the STBs and Diapir Banks including the Flower Garden Banks (FGBs) but will provide diversity data to support the addition and/or expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the northwest GOM.


Copyright 2019 Chelsea L. Pavliska. All Rights Reserved.