Committee Chair

Wilson, Thomas P.

Committee Member

Carroll, Andrew; Reynolds, Bradley R.


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), an emerging technology, show promise in ecological research. In this comparative study, I compare UAVs to a traditional sampling method, observations using spotting scopes. UAVs have yet to be used successfully for sampling freshwater turtles; however, they have been used with mixed success for monitoring mammals and birds. Herein, I propose that the conservation utility of UAVs be formally assessed in the field prior to them being used to make adaptive conservation and management decisions. I quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate the use of UAVs using a mixed methods approach in contrast to a proven field method as a means to elucidate our basic understanding of presence-absence. Being able to successfully use UAVs for ecological surveying would provide an easy, efficient, and less invasive way to study basking turtles.


I am grateful for every person who has helped me with this project over the past two years. I would like to thank Dr. Wilson for his support, patience, and unwavering belief in me. Thank you to my committee members, Dr. Brad Reynolds and Mr. Andy Carroll; this would not have been possible without your support. I would like to thank the entire Team Salamander crew, all of whom have become like a second family to me. A special thank you to Nyssa Hunt, Tegan Hendricks, Carissa Connor, and Holly Seiler. Your help with my field work and analysis has been invaluable. My family deserves a special thank you. My parents, Mark and Debbie Daniels, have been nothing but supportive and encouraging of me; and my brother, Matthew, has always been my main inspiration to be a scientist. Lastly, I would like to thank the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for funding my education while I worked on my thesis and UTC IGTLab for providing the UAV. All research was conducted in accordance with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency permit #3082 and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Institutional Care and Use Committee.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Ecological surveys; Turtles; Reptile surveys


Unmanned aerial vehicle; UAV; UAS; Turtle; Riverine; Ecology

Document Type

Masters theses




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