Fine-scale Niche Modeling Growth and Disease Cover Trends of Long-term Outplanted Staghorn Corals (Acropora cervicornis) in the Lower Florida Keys

Glenna Dyson
Master's Defense


Monday, Jul. 10, 2023, 1:00pm
Chase 130

Habitat suitability models have long been utilized within restoration ecology to project areas of range expansion, diversity hotspots, and potential locations for nursery-reared outplant success. In the Florida Keys, multiple species have been targeted for coral restoration, especially Acropora cervicornis due to its importance as a reef building stony coral. To date, habitat suitability models have used data with coarse spatial resolution on wild A. cervicornis populations, resulting in recommended sites that are logistically and financially difficult to outplant to by restoration groups. Additionally, coral outplant success can vary widely within a limited space, necessitating the understanding of how to project optimal outplant locations within a restoration site. With the advent of Structure-from-motion reconstruction, fine-scale digital elevation models can be created which can assist in developing targeted habitat suitability models from extacted terrain variables. This study uses fine-scale seafloor variables within a generalized mixed models to project site-specific location of high A. cervicornis growth and healthy coral cover in the long-term. Convex terrain, rough terrain, marine heat and cold waves projected negative relations to coral growth. Slope, distance from coast, and high wind events projected positive relations to growth. Percent healthy cover significantly decreased after two years of outplantation. Depth, distance from coast, decreasing terrain roughness, and proximity to the spur-and-groove interface projected higher percentages of healthy coral cover. Cumulatively, these results emphasize the importance in long-term monitoring and fine-scale surveying when utilizing habitat suitability models to make site recommendations for coral outplanting. 


Glenna earned their B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University in 2020. Following graduation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they worked at a covid testing center as a PCR and resulting technician. Now pursuing an M.S. degree in Oceanography, Glenna is utilizing micro-topography mapping and monitoring to determine endangered coral growth over time. Their work focuses on utilizing mapping and modeling to predict vulnerable ecosystems. In her free time, Glenna enjoys rock climbing, reading, hiking, and scuba diving.