Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Geography and the Environment

First Advisor

Paul C. Sutton, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rebecca Powell

Third Advisor

Sharolyn Anderson

Fourth Advisor

Donald Sullivan


Light detection and ranging, Remote sensing, Sea turtle


Humans' desire for knowledge regarding animal species and their interactions with the natural world have spurred centuries of studies. The relatively new development of remote sensing systems using satellite or aircraft-borne sensors has opened up a wide field of research, which unfortunately largely remains dependent on coarse-scale image spatial resolution, particularly for habitat modeling. For habitat-specialized species, such data may not be sufficient to successfully capture the nuances of their preferred areas. Of particular concern are those species for which topographic feature attributes are a main limiting factor for habitat use. Coarse spatial resolution data can smooth over details that may be essential for habitat characterization.

Three studies focusing on sea turtle nesting beaches were completed to serve as an example of how topography can be a main deciding factor for certain species. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data were used to illustrate that fine spatial scale data can provide information not readily captured by either field work or coarser spatial scale sources. The variables extracted from the LiDAR data could successfully model nesting density for loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtle species using morphological beach characteristics, highlight beach changes over time and their correlations with nesting success, and provide comparisons for nesting density models across large geographic areas. Comparisons between the LiDAR dataset and other digital elevation models (DEMs) confirmed that fine spatial scale data sources provide more similar habitat information than those with coarser spatial scales. Although these studies focused solely on sea turtles, the underlying principles are applicable for many other wildlife species whose range and behavior may be influenced by topographic features.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kristina H. Yamamoto


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

111 p.



Included in

Geography Commons