Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kevin M Boswell

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Yannis Papastamatiou

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Yuying Zhang

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

J. Christopher Taylor

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jennifer Rehage

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


Fish Spawning Aggregations, Fisheries Acoustics, Active Acoustics, Goliath Grouper, Remote Sensing, Acoustic Telemetry

Date of Defense



The formation of fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) is an essential life history process for more than 150 species worldwide. Decades of research have provided a wealth of information to describe FSA dynamics, but there are many regions where their occurrence, behavior, and susceptibility to environmental variation remain uncharacterized. Even in regions that host an extensive research infrastructure such as South Florida, a standardized survey program to locate, validate, and monitor FSAs has not been established. This dissertation addresses those shortcomings in several ways. First, I present a comprehensive synthesis of available FSA literature from the region, which was combined with unpublished data sources, local reports from stakeholders, and field validation efforts to aid resource managers in identifying priority areas and species for future management activities. The successive chapters use goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara, GG) as a model species to evaluate three topics in FSA research. First, I characterize the response of GG and local fish communities to intense storm activity and sustained periods of high turbidity and demonstrate their capacity to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, with the understanding that climatic conditions and continued urbanization may eventually lead to disruption in ecosystem processes. In chapter four, I focus on the application of active acoustics to remotely assess FSAs at multiple spatiotemporal scales. I also evaluate changes in GG density as a factor of survey approach and provide recommendations for an optimized technique to monitor GG aggregations statewide. In chapter five, I integrate data from multiple remote-sensing platforms to take a closer look at fine-scale behaviors beyond the reach of active acoustics. Specifically, I test the capacity of acoustic telemetry to characterize behavioral changes in response to environmental variation and provide insight into analytically classified behaviors such as foraging and courtship. As GG spawning has remained historically elusive, these data contain unprecedented observations that could serve to improve our understanding of GG aggregation dynamics at previously undescribed scales. This dissertation is a culmination of research focused on improving regional FSA science, demonstrates the utility of remote sensing to monitor FSAs, and characterizes behaviors that were previously unobservable by traditional methodologies.





Previously Published In

Binder, B. M., Taylor, J. C., Gregg, K., and Boswell, K. M. (2021). Fish Spawning Aggregations in the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area: A Case Study Synthesis of User Reports, Literature, and Field Validation Efforts. Front. Mar. Sci. 8. doi:10.3389/fmars.2021.671477.



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