Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joni Firat, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven Reader, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Rains, Ph.D.


GIS, Gopher tortoise, Habitat, Habitat Relationships, Interaction, Regression


This thesis evaluates the interaction between four habitat factors vital to the gopher tortoise in Florida. Federally and state listed as threatened throughout its entire range, the gopher tortoise is vital to protect, not only for itself individually but its burrows provide an essential habitat to over 300 species making it a key stone species within its environment. Historic habitat modeling methods are reviewed for the gopher tortoise to highlight the gap on this topic. This research expanded on the methods utilized by Baskaran et al. (2006) evaluating the soil, landcover, percentage of canopy cover and the depth to water table habitat factors key to the gopher tortoise. Statistical analysis was used to establish the interactions using a regression type analysis of the presence/absence data relative to the four factors. A probability map for the study site was then computed from the results. The Analysis of Deviance results for the statistical model with land cover type as an independent variable and a 3-way interaction term for the other factors found that the land cover term was significant as an independent variable and the 3-way interaction of the other 3 habitat factors was significant. This result demonstrates that there is in fact an interaction between the habitat factors influencing the location of gopher tortoises. This finding is significant in future gopher tortoise research as it indicates that habitat factors evaluated individually may not be as important as the interactions between the factors. By understanding the interactions between the habitat factors, the FWC can work alongside other agencies to ‘increase and improve’ these key habitat areas preventing them from destruction. The map results also help pinpoint those fragmented potential habitat sites which are most at risk from full destruction and loss allowing agencies the work on protecting and expanding the suitable habitat landscape in order to ‘enhance and restore’ the gopher tortoise populations residing there, helping them to ‘maintain the gopher tortoise’s function as a keystone species’