Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Biology and Fisheries (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

David J. Die

Second Committee Member

Lynne Fieber

Third Committee Member

Sarah Meltzoff


Black groupers (Mycteroperca bonaci) are a critical component of coral reef ecosystems as well as South Florida fisheries. It is therefore of great concern that their essential fish habitat has not yet been fully defined. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the ecology of black groupers was characterized in the Upper Florida Keys. The first part of this study utilized acoustic telemetry. Self-contained acoustic receivers were placed in an array around Conch Reef and tracked 16 tagged black groupers for 483 days. Patterns of movement behavior and habitat usage were modeled using presence-absence data. The capture-recapture program MARK was used to estimate the model parameters. It was found that spur and groove habitat was the most frequented habitat during the study period, along with artificial reef structure. Movement behavior followed patterns according to changes in seawater temperature, as well as sunrise and sunset. The second part of the study used anthropological methods based on political ecology to investigate the interactions of the black grouper population of the Upper Keys with the human residents and visitors to the area. In-depth life and work histories were conducted with stakeholders to determine the stakeholder groups involved in the political ecology of this natural resource. Seven stakeholder groups and eight subgroups interviewed over a three-month period. Paradoxically, black groupers remain a part of Upper Florida Keys culture, and demand for them has lead to increased rates of imports from other countries and fish fraud still prevails. Conducting ecological research along side an anthropological study proved to be key for obtaining a full overview of the ecology of black groupers. The study of stakeholder local knowledge can provide important information for telemetry studies, as well as inform resource managers seeking to establish enforceable regulations. The synthesis of this study showed that spatial management would be an appropriate tool for protecting black groupers juveniles, given their strong site fidelity.


groupers; habitat; anthropology; spatial; ecology; bonaci