Alex Ward.jpg

Alex Ward

Masters by research student


Supervisors: Prof. John Bythell and Dr. James Guest

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I started the Marine Ecosystems and Governance M.Res. course at Newcastle University in 2020, after graduating with a first-class honours in Biology B.Sc. My Biology degree helped me gain plenty of experience in field experiments in a range of environments, from farms in Newcastle to orchards in Greece and mountainous jungles in South Africa. My lab-based undergraduate dissertation investigating the microbial communities under glaciers and ice sheets helped me to independently develop a variety of lab techniques.


For my master’s research project, I am looking at the size-frequency distributions and life histories of Acropora digitifera and Goniastrea retiformis at a shallow reef in Palau. To do this, I am using ortho-mosaics developed by the CoralAssist team and the R programming and GIS skills I have learnt from other modules and online HarvardX courses. This research will help to evaluate the changes in community structure at the reef within the past few years and develop better coral restoration strategies.


Before university, I spent a month volunteering in Nosy Be, Madagascar, with Frontier. This mainly involved surveying fish abundance at nearby reefs, but I also surveyed mangroves, monitored some of the local lemur troops and gained my PADI Advanced Open Water qualification. In 2019, I also carried out a six-week marine conservation internship in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, through GVI. My main project there was to lead survey dives to monitor the spread of coral diseases, primarily Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, and share my data with Coral Disease Watch. Through doing this I earned the PADI Coral Reef Research Specialty Diver qualification. I also spent time supporting the Centro Regional de Investigacion Pesquera (CRIP) Puerto Morelos Coral Reef Restoration Program, a lab team there that are using coral fragmentation to restore local reefs.


After completing my master’s in 2022, I am keen to continue my research on corals and contribute to reef conservation. I also want to develop my data visualisation and design skills to find creative ways to present information about important marine topics.