Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Biosystems Engineering Technology

Major Professor

Paul Ayers

Committee Members

Joanne Jogan, Larry Wilson


There is a need to define a more efficient and accurate approach to aquatic habitat mapping. Traditional approaches have focused on intense biological/non-biological sampling and observation analysis within specific and restrained scales. Therefore, an underwater video mapping system (UVMS) has been developed in efforts to identify federally protected aquatic species’ habitats within the Obed Wild and Scenic River (OBRI). The UVMS kayak apparatus provides georeferenced video footage correlated with GPS (global positioning systems) for GIS (geographic information systems) mapping applications. Based on its fluvial and geomorphological trends, OBRI was dissected quantitatively and integrated into databases for species-specific GIS habitat queries. Substrate type, depth, above water river characteristics (pool/riffle/run), and substrate embeddedness were extracted to access specific habitats. To better pinpoint optimal microhabitat locations, a physical habitat suitability model was developed to rank preferred habitat locales. Rankings were sequentially broken into five categories: optimal, sub-optimal, marginal, sub-marginal, and poor habitat criteria.

Habitat suitability findings for the interested species habitats varied tremendously, favoring fish species. Spotfin chub, Erimonax monacha, optimal habitat was found to cover 22.14 km of river length within OBRI (30 % of OBRI’s spatial extent). The blackside dace, Phoxinus cumberlandensis, (38.9 km) and the duskytail darter, Etheostoma percnurum, (50.9 km) met optimal habitat conditions that yielded 51% and 69% of OBRI’s spatial extent, respectively.

In general, optimal habitats for the six mussels were sporadically distributed and had low occurrences. Primarily, these mussel species prefer highly embedded areas with very specific depths and pool/riffle/run conditions. Cumberland elktoe, Alasmidonta atropurea, optimal habitat ranges spanned across 4.32 km (6% of OBRI’s spatial extent) with most of the habitat characteristics in OBRI being marginal. The purple bean, Villosa perpurpurea, optimal habitat was identified within 2.61 km of OBRI (3.5% of OBRI’s spatial extent). Most of the physical conditions of OBRI supplied poor to sub-marginal habitat for the purple bean, at least from a thalweg perspective. Only 385 m coincided with optimal habitat for the cumberland bean, Villosa trabalis, (0.5% of OBRI’s spatial extent) with most habitats in long sub-marginal reaches. Optimal habitats for the cumberlandian combshell, Epioblasma brevidens, the tan riffleshell, Epioblasma florentina walkeri, and the littlewing pearlymussel, Pegias fibula, were deficient, only occurring in 484 m, 276 m, and 252 m of OBRI, respectively (0.7%, 0.4%, and 0.3% of OBRI’s spatial extent). Marginal to sub-marginal habitats dominated the park for these three mussel species.

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