Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Nicholas L. Padilla

Second Advisor

Dr. Adam Mathews

Third Advisor

Dr. Lisa M. DeChano-Cook


Geography, sargassum, remote sensing, participatory mapping, PPGIS

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This mixed methods research examines individual perceptions of Sargassum on Grand Cayman’s beaches in 2020 using participant mapping, and semi – structured interviews. Results from the participant mapping are compared to satellite detection of sargassum. Sargassum poses health risks to both humans and the natural environment. Decaying Sargassum produces sulfuric gas and prevents young turtle hatchlings from reaching the ocean. Since 2011, Sargassum has diffused beyond the Sargasso Sea into entirely novel locations, spanning from the west African Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. Increased biomass has proven to be overwhelming for many Caribbean Islands, including Grand Cayman where hundreds of tons of Sargassum was removed from beaches in July of 2019. Understanding spatiotemporal variations in Sargassum distribution on Grand Cayman can aid clean-up efforts, protect fragile coastal ecologies, and inform the relevant stakeholders where Sargassum has appeared in recent years and in the past with the goal of anticipating future trends.

The Sargassum beaching events 2020 will be investigated through a combination of participatory mapping and remote sensing to develop a ground truthing method of Sargassum detection using free satellite imagery in coastal environments. In addition, semi-structured interviews will be conducted to determine spatial variations of individuals’ perceptions of Sargassum beaching events in the recent past. Face-to-face interviews with local residents and other stakeholders will include questions of how long Sargassum remains on the beach before removal, what local perceptions of Sargassum management are and how Sargassum has impacted individuals’ lives.