Assessing elasmobranch abundance and biodiversity: comparing multiple field techniques (BRUVS, UAVs, eDNA) in the Farasan Banks

  • Eloise B. Richardson

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Conservation of elasmobranch populations is often inhibited by a lack of data, particularly in understudied regions like the Red Sea. Survey efforts in this region have been infrequent and often highly localized. Establishing a broad baseline for elasmobranch diversity and abundance along the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast could inform both conservation efforts and a nascent ecotourism industry. In this thesis, I describe a pilot study comparing biodiversity data from baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS), unoccupied aerial vehicle surveys (UAVs), and eDNA sequencing at five islands in the Farasan Banks region of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Estimates of relative abundance were also compared between the BRUVS and UAVs. Each method identified species missed by the other two, but all three techniques exhibited clear habitat- and taxa-specific biases. I was able to identify key concerns for each approach that need to be addressed before large-scale implementation. If carefully planned and executed well, a full assessment of the Saudi Arabian coastline could establish a true baseline for shallow water elasmobranchs in the eastern Red Sea. Informing best conservation practices and identifying potential ecological attractions in accordance the environmental and economic goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
Date of AwardMay 28 2023
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • conservation
  • sharks
  • rays
  • elasmobranch
  • elasmobranchs
  • eDNA
  • environmental DNA
  • baited remote underwater video
  • UAVs
  • UAV
  • unoccupied aerial vehicle
  • Farasan Banks

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