Graduate Student Dissertations, Theses, Capstones, and Portfolios

Date of Award


Document Type


Granting Institution

Lynn University

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Program

Biological Science


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Law


The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is native to the Southeast region of the United States. The burrows it digs supports the survival and wellbeing of over 350 other species, with over 60 of those being other vertebrates, making it a keystone species. It is ranked threated to rare by differing organizations with the main threat throughout its entire natural range being habitat loss. The Florida Scrub is the natural habitat of Florida gopher tortoise populations and is one of the fastest declining ecosystems in Florida, particularly in South Florida, due to rapid urban development. Many of the remaining Florida scrub habitats are classified as protected natural areas and are managed by an organization. These protected natural areas vary in size and other characteristics such as management used, wetland size, public access, and more.

This exploratory study endeavored to discover which site characteristics significantly influenced the gopher tortoise populations living within these fragmented habitats. Through the collection and aggregation of large amounts of existing data, principal component analyses were applied to first identify which site characteristics influenced gopher tortoise populations the most. T-tests were then applied to discover which of those identified characteristics were statistically significant influences. The results suggested that site size and the presence of site boundary were the only statistically significant characteristics that influenced gopher tortoise populations. The results also suggested that certain characteristics such as management type, site size, and depth to groundwater warrant further exploration through their own studies to better understand their influence on site’s gopher tortoises. Additionally, this study’s results suggest that the presence of humans do not have any significant impact on natural area site populations. Finally, the results also gave some insight into best places to dedicate management resources in the interest of conserving gopher tortoise populations in protected natural areas.

Included in

Biology Commons



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