People

Matthew Tietbohl

Ph.D. Students

Research Interests

Originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, Matt first discovered his love for the ocean on a high school trip to St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica; here, Matt was first introduced to the challenge of collecting and identifying marine organisms, but also the joy of finding an amazing diversity of life under the sea! Matt graduated with honors in Biology from Wake Forest University where he managed to spend more time at sea studying abroad in Sicily, Belize, and the Turks & Caicos Islands. He also managed to get his AAUS certification in the frigid waters of the San Juan Islands through the Friday Harbor (Marine) Laboratory. 

Drawn to KAUST by an innovative isotope paper from the Reef Ecology Lab, Matt came to KAUST in 2015 to complete his MSc degree. Here, he used a compound-specific isotope analysis of essential amino acids to try and investigate functional diversity at a deeper level in herbivorous reef fishes (he found some interesting things, publication to be released soon). This project fostered Matt's love of herbivorous fishes, but also opened his eyes to a lot of the key gaps in our knowledge of how these fish function on Red Sea reefs.

For his PhD, Matt is trying to understand patterns in herbivorous fish functional group distribution through space and time, expand on his isotope work to better understand what these fish are doing, and conducting a large exclusion experiment to better understand how these fish impact coral recruitment in the Red Sea and how this compared to other locations around the world. He still maintains a strong interest in stable isotope ecology, as he works to try and understand one part of the chaotic, complex puzzle that is coral reef ecology!


A self-described forever-hungry bookworm and lover of food, Matt is also heavily involved in science communication and outreach and believes it is an inherent part of the scientist to share their findings with the greater world and to spark the interests of younger generations. Matt is a member of the Communications Committee for the Society for Conservation Biology Marine Division where he is also involved in planning for their biannual meeting, the International Marine Conservation Congress. Matt also enjoys talking to students in classroom settings and is part of the Skype a Scientist program https://www.skypeascientist.com/. You can find him online @WhyOceansMATTer


In his spare time he enjoys reading, podcasts, Monopoly cards & other fun games, the outdoors, diving, and #nightlighting among other things. Please feel free to get in touch with Matt for any interesting book/podcast listening advice or questions related to his research or coral reef ecology in general! ‚Äč