Fisheries Ecology & Conservation

Matt Ajemian

Principal Investigator

Matt Ajemian, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor

Dr. Matt Ajemian joined Harbor Branch in 2016 as an Assistant Research Professor. His major research interests lie in the ecology and conservation of targeted fisheries and vulnerable species, and his experience includes a variety of marine and estuarine organisms from shellfish up to sharks and rays. Dr. Ajemian's work also spans a continuum of marine and estuarine ecosystems, ranging from confined inshore lagoons to offshore artificial and natural reefs. He employs integrative approaches to tackle research questions with both theoretical ecology and applied fisheries applications, often intertwined.

In general, his research seeks to:

  1. Understand linkages between fisheries species and habitat quality (dynamic and fixed)

  2. Expand scientific knowledge on fish behavior and ecology to promote population sustainability

  3. Improve and utilize technological tools (e.g., biotelemetry) to delineate fish resource needs and multi-scale connectivity

  4. Provide imperative scientific data for stock assessment and natural resource management

Dr. Ajemian earned his Ph.D. in Marine Science at University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab in 2011 and spent four years as a postdoc and research scientist with the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Over the course of his career he has developed expertise in ichthyology, ecology, and fisheries science and has covered topics such as foraging ecology, habitat use, movement behavior, fisheries impacts, and bycatch.


Current and Recent Grants

(2016 – 2017) National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: “Optimizing rapid recompression strategies for increasing survival of discarded Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico” ($209,326; Co-PI) 

(2014 – 2016) Texas Sea Grant: “Why are Black Drum starving in Baffin Bay? An ecosystem-based approach to develop community resilience and sustainable fisheries in a hypersaline estuary” ($177,227; Co-PI) 

(2014 – 2016) NOAA/NMFS Bycatch Reduction and Enhancement Program (BREP): “Minimizing discard mortality of Red Snapper using novel release methods” ($266,108; Co-PI) 

(2014 – 2016) NOAA/NMFS Marine Fisheries Initiative: “Investigation of the relative habitat value of oil/gas platforms and natural banks in enhancing stock building of reef fish in the western Gulf of Mexico.” ($242,299; Co-PI) 

(2014 – 2015) Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Rehabilitation Program: “Sharks with Spectators II” ($15,000; Co-PI)


Featured Publications

Ajemian, M.J. and S.P. Powers. In Press. Seasonality and ontogenetic habitat partitioning of Cownose Rays in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Estuaries and Coasts.

Ajemian, M.J., Wetz J.J., Shively J.D., Shipley-Lozano B. and G.W. Stunz. 2015. An analysis of artificial reef fish community structure along the Texas coast: Potential consequences of “Rigs-to-Reefs” programs. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0126354.

Bethea, D.M., Ajemian, M.J., Carlson, J.K., Hoffmayer, E.R., Burgess, G.H., Imhoff, J.L. and R.D. Grubbs. 2015. Distribution and community structure of coastal sharks in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Env. Biol. Fish. 98(5): 1233-1254.

Drymon, J.M., Ajemian M.J., and S.P. Powers. 2014. Distribution and dynamic habitat use of young bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in a highly stratified northern Gulf of Mexico estuary. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97124.

Ajemian, M.J. and S.P. Powers. 2013. Foraging effects of cownose rays along barrier island habitats of the northern Gulf of Mexico. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.439: 119-128.

Ajemian, M.J., Powers, S.P. and T.J.T. Murdoch. 2012. Estimating the potential impacts of large mesopredators on benthic resources: Integrative assessment of spotted eagle ray foraging ecology in Bermuda. PLoS ONE 7: e40227.

HBOI ocean fish