Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Albert Hine, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stanley Locker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa Robbins, Ph.D.


QTC, Echo classification, Aquatic vegetation, Grain size, Sediment, Hard bottom


The need for assessment of benthic habitat characteristics may arise for many reasons. Such reasons may include but are not limited to, habitat mapping, environmental concerns and identification of submerged aquatic vegetation. Oftentimes, such endeavors employ the use of aerial photography, satellite imagery, diving transects and extensive sampling. Aerial photography and remote sensing techniques can be severely limited by water clarity and depth, whereas diver transects and extensive sampling can be time consuming and limited in spatial extent. Acoustic methods of seabed mapping, such as the acoustic sediment classification system QTC are not hampered by water clarity issues. The acoustic sediment classification system QTC is capable of providing greater spatial coverage in fractions of the time required by divers or point sampling.

The acoustic classification system QTC VIEW VTM was used to map benthic habitats within Tampa Bay. The QTC system connected in parallel to an echo-sounder is capable of digitally extracting and recording echoes returning from the seabed. Recorded echoes were processed using QTC IMPACTTM software. This software partitions echo waveforms into groups or classes based on their similarity to one another using multivariate statistics, namely Principal Component Analysis and K-Means clustering. Data was collected at two frequencies, 50 kHz and 200 kHz. Side-scan sonar data was collected coincident with the QTC data and used to produce mosaics of the various habitats in Tampa Bay. Side-scan sonar data was classified using QTC SideviewTM in an attempt to identify changes in benthic habitats. Sediment samples used for ground-truth were subjected to grain size analysis. Also, the percentage of organic matter and carbonate within samples was determined.

Results of acoustic classification appear to accurately reflect changes in the sediment type and structure of the seabed. Grain size, particularly percent mud, appears to have a strong influence on classification. Carbonate hard bottom habitats were found to be acoustically complex, a characteristic useful for their identification. The QTC system was able to detect seagrass, although some misclassification occurred between vegetated and non-vegetated seabeds.