Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Marine Geology and Geophysics (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

R. Pamela Reid

Second Committee Member

Eugene C. Rankey

Third Committee Member

Thomas Hahn

Fourth Committee Member

Jonathan M. Preston

Fifth Committee Member

G. Todd Kellison


A single-beam acoustic seabed classification system was used to map coral reef environments in the upper Florida Keys, USA, and the Bahamas. The system consisted of two components, both produced by the Quester Tangent Corporation. A QTCView Series V, operating with a 50 kHz sounder, was used for data acquisition, and IMPACT software was used for data processing and classification. First, methodological aspects of system performance were evaluated. Second, the system was applied to the assessment of grouper and snapper habitat. Two methodological properties were explored: transferability (i.e. mapping the same classes at multiple sites) and reproducibility (i.e. surveying one site multiple times). The transferability results showed that a two-class scheme of hard bottom and sediment could be mapped at four sites with overall accuracy ranging from 73% to 86%. The locations of most misclassified echoes had one of two characteristics: a thin sediment veneer overlying hard bottom or within-footprint relief on the order of 0.5 m or greater. Reproducibility experiments showed that consistency of acoustic classes between repeat transects over the same area on different days varied, for the most part, between 50% and 65%. Consistency increased to between 78% and 92% when clustering was limited to two acoustic classes, to between approximately 70% and 100% when only echoes acquired within two degrees of nadir in the pitch direction were used, and to between 81% and 87% when a limited set of features was used for classification. The assessment of grouper and snapper habitat addressed the question whether areas of high fish abundance were associated with characteristic acoustic or geomorphological signatures. The results showed, first, that the hard bottom / sediment classification scheme was a useful first step for stratifying survey areas to increase efficiency of grouper census efforts. Second, an index of acoustic variability complemented the hard bottom / sediment classification by further targeting areas of potential grouper habitat. Finally, five grouper and snapper spawning aggregation sites were all found to have similar associations with drowned shelf edge reefs in the upper Florida Keys.


SPAG; FSA; QTC; Lee Stocking Island; Andros Island; Carysfort Reef; Fowey Rocks