Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Kendall L. Carder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gabriel A. Vargo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John J. Walsh, Ph.D.


Backscatter, Light Absorption, Phytoplankton, Red Tides, Remote Sensing


Karenia brevis, a toxic dinoflagellate species that blooms regularly in the Gulf of Mexico, frequently causes widespread ecological and economic damage and can pose a serious threat to human health. Satellite-based ocean color imagery may provide a means for detecting and monitoring blooms, providing early alerts to coastal communities. However, a technique for discriminating K. brevis from other chlorophyll-containing algae is required. Between 1999 and 2001, a large bio-optical data set consisting of spectral measurements of remote-sensing reflectance (Rrs(lambda)), absorption (a(lambda)), and backscattering (bb(lambda)) along with chlorophyll a concentrations was collected on the central west Florida shelf (WFS) as part of the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) and Hyperspectral Coastal Ocean Dynamics Experiment (HyCODE) programs. Reflectance model simulations indicate that cellular pigmentation is not responsible for the factor of 3 to 4 decrease in Rrs(lambda) observed in waters containing greater than 104 cells 1-1 of K. brevis. Instead, particulate backscattering coefficients measured inside K. brevis blooms are responsible for this decreased reflectivity as they were significantly lower than values measured in high-chlorophyll (>1 mg m-3), diatom-dominated waters containing fewer than 104 cells 1-1 of K. brevis. A paucity of high-backscattering detritus present in K. brevis blooms caused by decreased grazing pressure perhaps due to cellular toxicity along with a general inability of K. brevis to out compete diatoms and bloom in high-nutrient, high-backscattering estuarine waters may explain this low backscattering. A classification technique for detecting high-chlorophyll, low-backscattering K. brevis blooms is developed. In addition, a method for quantifying chlorophyll concentrations in positively flagged pixels using fluorescence line height (FLH) data obtained from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) is introduced. Both techniques are successfully applied to Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and MODIS data acquired in late August 2001 and validated using in situ K. brevis cell concentrations.