Welcome! I’m Dr. Matt Ware, a coastal ecologist and a researcher with the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Marine Science (UNCW CMS). Feel free to poke around this site for details about ongoing and past projects. You can also follow along on Instagram and Twitter @mattware_phd.

Dr. Matt Ware with a loggerhead sea turtle

Through my work, I hope to find better ways for us to balance the human use and continued function of coastal ecosystems. In pursuit of this coastal conservation, I often use geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and environmental modelling in collaboration with stakeholders, citizen science groups, and students to explore abundance, behavioral, and distribution patterns in marine organisms and their environmental or anthropogenic drivers.

By joining UNCW CMS, my latest efforts will be concentrated on habitat mapping and suitability for several species of conservation concern in southern North Carolina – in particular the Masonboro Island Reserve. In addition to providing critical storm protection and recreational opportunities to the residents of Wilmington, North Carolina, this barrier island is home to several species and habitats are threatened by climate change, sea level rise, and coastal development. Utilizing drone imagery, in situ monitoring, and modelling efforts, we can develop management options to ensure Masonboro Island continues to offer these important physical, social, and ecological benefits.

Prior to joining UNCW CMS, my work as part of the Florida State University Marine Turtle Research, Ecology, and Conservation Group (FSU MTRECG) investigated the habitat use of sea turtles in both space and time. This included modeling wave exposure at sea turtle nesting beaches across the Florida Panhandle, monitoring sea turtle habitat use and population demographics on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and investigating boat strike mitigation strategies for sea turtle conservation on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Understanding these spatiotemporal patterns will allow us to minimize our impacts on sea turtle nesting, foraging, and migratory environments while improving our enjoyment of these charismatic species and potentially increasing the socioeconomic value of the environments they inhabit.

I received my Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from Florida State University in 2019. My research investigated how our beach- and species management actions impact the nesting environment of sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Most of this work was based on the Fort Morgan Peninsula of Alabama, including the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, with the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Share the Beach, an all-volunteer sea turtle conservation group (http://www.alabamaseaturtles.com/). It included projects related to nest relocation, embryonic tolerance to inundation, mapping wave exposure risk, and Leave No Trace ordinances. Each project was aimed at using our understanding of sea turtle biology and ecology to create new tools which improve our science-based management decisions for these species.

Before joining FSU MTRECG, I completed my M.Sc. in both Marine Biology and Marine Environmental Science at Nova Southeastern University working on coral reef restoration in the Florida Keys in collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation (https://www.coralrestoration.org/). In addition to completing my Master’s thesis at NSU, I also completed my AAUS Scientific Diver, PADI Open Water Instructor, and DAN Instructor qualifications as part of the NSU Scientific and Academic Diving Programs. With the addition of several specialties, I was upgraded to a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer in 2016.

My research and education has taken me all over the world – from the southeast United States to the Bahamas, Belize, England, even the Galapagos Islands. So it’s probably a mixed blessing that photography is a major hobby of mine! Through my images, I try to convey the beauty of our world and why we need to constantly work to preserve it. My photographs have been awarded in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest as well as included in National Geographic magazine and international news stories. I hope you enjoy the imagery throughout this site!

Abbreviated Curriculum Vitae


  • January 2016 – May 2019: Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography, Florida State University
  • August 2012 – August 2015: M.Sc. in Marine Biology and Marine Environmental Science, Nova Southeastern University
  • August 2008 – May 2012: B.Sc. in Biology, minors in Chemistry and Leadership Studies, Christopher Newport University


  • R statistical software, RStudio
  • Python
  • ArcGIS suite
  • Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Captivate
  • Canvas Learning Management System
  • AAUS Scientific Diver
  • PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer
  • DAN Instructor
  • PSI Visual Cylinder Inspector, Eddy Current Technician, Valve Repair Technician, and Oxygen Cleaning Cylinder Technician
  • Marine mammal and sea turtle stranding and salvage response

Employment and Teaching Experience

  • 2022 – Present: Researcher, University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • 2016 – 2022: Researcher, Florida State University
    • Manage several research projects in Crystal River and St. Lucie, Florida plus modeling work in the Florida Panhandle
    • Instructor of Record for GLY 4751C / 5757C: Introduction to Remote Sensing, Air Photo Interpretation, and GIS for the Earth Sciences in-house lecture and lab (with online asynchronous components for COVID response)
    • Lecturer for OCE 4930/OCC 5930: Professional Skills Development
    • Teaching Assistance for EVR 1001: Introduction to Environmental Science lecture and lab, online and in-house
    • Supervised several undergraduate research projects
    • Instructional Assistant for Introduction to Scientific Diving
  • 2012 – 2015: Research Assistant, Nova Southeastern University
    • Teaching Assistant for General and Organic Chemistry Labs
    • Instructor/Divemaster, Academic Diving Program
    • Sea Turtle Specialist, Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program

Funding, Awards, and Honors

  • 2021: $22,902 Florida Sea Turtle License Plate Grant
  • 2020: $19,861 Florida Sea Turtle License Plate Grant
  • 2020: $20,370 Florida State University Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science Post-Doctoral Appointment
  • 2017 – 2018: $20,000 Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Section 6 grant
  • 2017 – 2018: $1,000 Florida Outdoor Writers Association 2017 Scholarship for Outdoor Communicators
  • 2016-2017: $20,454 Florida State University John W. and Ellen M. Winchester Fund for Excellence in Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Geochemistry
  • 2022 – 2023: Program Chair for the 41st International Sea Turtle Symposium in Cartagena, Colombia (Postponed due to coronavirus)
  • 2019: Highly Commended in Wildlife Photojournalism, 55th Wildlife Photographer of the Year
  • 2016 – 2017: Winchester Scholar, Florida State University
  • 2012: Perkins Leadership Award, Christopher Newport University
  • 2008 – 2012: Canon Leadership Scholar, Christopher Newport University


  • 2022
    • 40th Annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, Perth Australia (virtual)
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
    • Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting, Myrtle Beach SC:
      • A comparison of methods used to monitor groundwater inundation of sea turtle nests, Oral presentation
    • Florida Outdoor Writers Association “Springs Fever” workshop, Brooksville FL
      • Talk Turtle to Me: sea turtle conservation in the southeast United States, Oral presentation
  • 2017
    • 37th Annual International Sea Turtle Symposium, Las Vegas NV:
      • Assessing the need and implications of sea turtle nest relocation, Oral presentation
  • 2015
  • 2012
    • TOS/ASLO/AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting, Salt Lake City UT:
      • Modeling of threats to corals of the Galapagos Islands and the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, Poster presentation


See Publications page

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