Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi

Dr. Matt Ajemian

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Dr. Matt Ajemian

Fishy Fascinations

When considering all of the incredible research that Dr. Matt Ajemian has had the opportunity to conduct from tagging sharks to helping conserve the stingray population, his most challenging and rewarding project is his current research on artificial reefs. This work allows him to experience how fish and artificial reefs interact to create “new” ecosystems.

“I get to work with a fantastic group of hard-working and enthusiastic scientists and study these reefs through diving, fishing, and using a state-of-the-art remote operated vehicle (ROV),” said Ajemian, Assistant Research Scientist for the Harte Research Institute.

During his most recent excursion in late August, Ajemian and his group conducted ROV surveys on the Coastal Bend’s southernmost artificial reefs off of Padre Island National Seashore and were able to explore and compare fish communities between the artificial and natural structures for the first time.

“Artificial reefs are an important marine habitat type supporting a variety of reef fish and associated populations in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico,” said Ajemian. “These reefs lure commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, and divers and thus can positively influence the economy of our coastal communities serving these enthusiasts.”  

Ajemian says that “despite having been the source of all life-forms on this planet, the ocean remains abundant with countless mysteries.” Although research so far has undoubtedly educated scientists, there is still question over specific benefits of these reefs to sea-life. Until recently, there have only been opportunities to monitor marine life after such reefs were installed, leaving no historical baseline.

That’s about to change. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will develop a near shore reef within state waters this fall. The Corpus Christi Nearshore Reef (MU-775) will consist of a set of 400 concrete-limestone pyramids and between 100-200 concrete box culverts installed 10.6 miles east of Packery Channel in the Corpus Christi area.

“We have been sampling this area intensively over the past year, anticipating this potentially valuable addition to our coastal waters,” said Ajemian. “We are getting a baseline of the amount and types of species inhabiting this area prior to reef installation. That way, we can see how quickly it takes for fish and other organisms to colonize these structures.”
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