Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Establishing the history and ecological effects of hurricane strikes in the Pascagoula Marsh is important to the understanding of paleotempestology on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The Pascagoula Marsh is approximately 11,150 acres of wetland at the mouth of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi, which ranges from a freshwater marsh to salt marsh. This location was chosen for its proximity to the mouth of the Pascagoula River, which is exposed to the Gulf of Mexico. In order to establish the history of hurricane strikes and their effects on local vegetation, radiocarbon, sedimentary, diatom, and fossil pollen records were extracted from a 492 cm core taken from the marsh at the coordinates 30º 23’ 37.50” N 88º 35’ 23.50” W. The sediment from this site is expected to preserve prominent sand layers that could be caused by hurricane strikes and storm surges. Loss-on-ignition studies correlated with radiocarbon data and a visual inspection of the core have revealed three distinct regimes of hurricane strikes over the last ~5000 years. Zone 1 (1350 cal yr BP – present) contains no hurricane deposits, Zone 2 (3720 – 1350 cal yr BP) contains fifteen hurricane deposits, and Zone 3 (5067 – 3720 cal yr BP) contains two hurricane deposits. Zone 2 corresponds with the hyperactive period of hurricane activity established for the Gulf of Mexico coast. Diatom and pollen results permit a reconstruction of long-term environmental change in the Pascagoula Marsh as well as ecosystem responses to each paleo-hurricane strike. The data suggest a change from a freshwater marsh (5067 to 3720 cal yr BP) to a brackish marsh (3720 to 1350 cal yr BP), and then back to a freshwater marsh (1350 cal yr BP to the present).



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Committee Chair

Kam-biu Liu