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The Team

Dr. Matthew D. Ramirez

Assistant Professor of Coastal and Marine Biology (he/him/his)

​Dr. Ramirez is a marine ecologist whose research seeks to elucidate the links between demography, consumer-resource interactions, and ecosystem change, with an emphasis on using ecogeochemical tools (e.g., stable isotopes) to study these processes. He is particularly interested in understanding how multiple stressors interact to influence sea turtle demography and food wed dynamics. Outside the lab you can find him gardening, traveling, and/or spoiling the lab mascots Ruby and Tusc.

You can learn more about Matt and his career path HERE.

E-mail: ramirezmd [at]  |  Twitter: @Matt_D_Ramirez

Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate  |  CV

Graduate Students

Jamie Clark

Ph.D. Student

Jamie became enthralled with marine science at a young age digging for sand crabs among the surf along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. Quickly becoming a reptile lover, Jamie aspired to follow in Steve Irwin’s footsteps of animal conservation. After volunteering and interning at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, she discovered her passion for aquatic creatures and conservation biology. Jamie attended the University of South Carolina for both her B.S. and M.S. in Marine Science emphasizing in biological oceanography. While at UofSC, Jamie researched the behavioral and molecular changes during eye regeneration of the Florida fighting conch. She strives to correlate structure with function. After her Master’s, Jamie started as a Fisheries Biologist on the Sea Turtle Team at the NOAA Beaufort, NC Laboratory. There, she histologically processed sea turtle humeri bones for age determination and aided in field studies to assess fishery bycatch reduction devices in the pound net industry and to track juvenile migration habits throughout local sounds. Continuing with NOAA Fisheries, Jamie transitioned into the production ageing of fish, developing age prediction models utilizing FT-NIR spectral data to age genetically distinct stocks of white grunt from the U.S. South Atlantic. Jamie is particularly interested in utilizing FT-NIRS and epigenetics as non-lethal methods for the ageing of sea turtles. She is going back for her Ph.D. to gain analytical skills and apply them to ageing protected species for improved age estimates contributing to conservation management. Outside the office, you’ll find Jamie building things within the garden or at the dog park with her lab, Dexter.

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Taylor Mannes

Ph.D. Student

Taylor (she/her) is a PhD student interested in food web resilience and ecosystem change and is interested in using ecogeochemical tools (e.g., stable isotopes) to evaluate these dynamics. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s at Northeastern University as part of their Three Seas program. 


Taylor has two cats (Pete and Millie) and enjoys hiking, crocheting, and reading in her free time. 

Undergraduate Students & Postbacs

Cole Johnston

Research Assistant & DIS Student

Cole is a rising Senior working on a B.S. in Marine Biology. He joined the lab in summer 2023 as a research assistant, assisting Dr. Ramirez in physically setting up the research lab and working as part of the Sea Turtle Skeleto team. During the 2023-2024 academic year, Cole will complete a DIS with Dr. Ramirez using stable isotope techniques to study the trophic of ecology of marine top predators (project details TBD). 

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Deedra LaFon

Volunteer & Research Assistant

Deedra graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology from UNCW in 2021. She joined the lab in summer 2003 as a volunteer with the Sea Turtle Skeleto team. She transitioned to a Research Assistant position in August 2023 and will continue working as part of the Sea Turtle Skeleto team processing sea turtle humeri for future age and growth studies.

Ashley Dees

DIS Student

Ashley is a Senior working on a B.S. in Biology. She joined the lab in summer 2023 and is completing a DIS focused on understanding the links between Kemp's ridley sea turtle diet, growth, and nutritional condition. 

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Sierra Hershberger

Honor's Student

Sierra is a rising Senior working on a B.S. in Biology. She is completing her Honor's Thesis with Dr. Ramirez and in collaboraiton with Dr. Sibelle Vilaça (Vale Institute of Technology, Brazil). Her project is using literature review to identify the ecological factors that promote hybridization in sea turtles. Honor's Thesis committee members include Dr. Ramirez, Dr. Vilaça, Dr. Ray Danner (BMB), and Dr. Thomas Coombs (Chem).

Mary Brandle

DIS Student

Mary is a rising Senior working on a B.S. in Biology. She is completing a DIS with Dr. Ramirez, working in collaboration with Sierra Hershberger to identify the ecological factors that promote hybridization in sea turtles. 

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