Matthew J. Witt, PhD


Senior Lecturer in Natural Environment (marine)
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus


Dr. Matthew Witt is a spatial ecologist with experience in marine vertebrate tracking, satellite remote sensing, oceanography and conservation biology. His research focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of marine vertebrate ecology, including foraging behaviour, habitat-use, population assessment and human-wildlife space conflict. Acquiring knowledge on the distribution and behaviour of mobile marine species is often challenging, therefore, his work uses a variety of remote data collection technologies, such as satellite tracking, archival data loggers, acoustic detection and tracking, and earth observation remote sensing.


  • PhD – University of Exeter. 2007. Dissertation title: The spatial ecology of marine turtles.
  • M.Res – University of Plymouth. 2004. Thesis: Large scale movements of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) from archival tagging in relation to a zooplankton prey field in the north-east Atlantic.
  • M.Sc – University of Southampton, Oceanography Centre. Physical and biological oceanography with ocean remote sensing.

Classes Taught

  • Marine spatial ecology
  • Tropical marine ecology (field course)
  • Anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems
  • Conservation biology

Selected References

P D Doherty, J M Baxter, F R Gell, B J Godley, R T Graham, G Hall, J Hall, L A Hawkes, S M Henderson, L Johnson, C Speedie, M J Witt (2017). Testing the boundaries: Seasonal residency and inter-annual site fidelity of basking sharks in a proposed marine protected area. Biological Conservation. 

P D Doherty, J M Baxter, F R Gell, B J Godley, R T Graham, G Hall, J Hall, L A Hawkes, S M Henderson, L Johnson, C Speedie, M J Witt (2017). Long-term satellite tracking reveals variable seasonal migration strategies of basking sharks in the north-east Atlantic. Scientific Reports. 

S E Nelms, C Coombes, L C Foster, T S Galloway, B J Godley, P K Lindeque, Witt MJ (2017)  Marine anthropogenic litter on British beaches: a 10-year nationwide assessment using citizen science data. Science of the Total Environment 579:  1399-1409. 

Garret JK, Blondell P, Godley BJ, Pikesley SK, Witt MJ, Johanning L (2016). Long term underwater sound measurements in shipping noise indicator bands. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Bicknell AW, Godley BJ, Sheehan SV, Votier SC and Witt MJ (2016) Camera technology in monitoring marine biodiversity and human impact. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Merchant ND, Fristrup KM, Johnson MP, Tyack PL, Witt MJ, Blondell P and Parks SE (2015) Measuring acoustic habitats. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6:257-265

Pikesley SK, Godley BJ, Latham H, Richardson PB, Robson LM, Solandt J-L, Trundle C, Wood C, Witt MJ (2015) Pink sea fans as indicators of spatial efficacy of Marine Protected Areas. Marine Policy 64:38-45

Hammerschlag N, Broderick AC, Coker JW, Coyne MS, Dodd M, Frick MG, Godfrey MH, Godley BJ, Griffin DB, Hartog K, Murphy SR, Murphy TM, Rose Nelson E, Williams KL, Witt MJ, Hawkes LA (2015). Evaluating the landscape of fear between apex predatory sharks and mobile sea turtles across a large dynamic seascape. Ecology

Fossette S, Witt MJ, Miller P, Nalovic MA, Albareda D, Almeida AP, Broderick AC, Chacón-Chaverri D, Coyne MS, Domingo A, Eckert S, Evans D, Fallabrino A, Ferraroli S, Formia A, Giffoni B, Hays GC, Hughes G, Kelle L, Leslie A, López-Mendilaharsu M, Luschi P, Prosdocimi L, Rodriguez-Heredia S, Turny A, Verhage S and Godley BJ (2014). Pan-Atlantic analysis of the overlap of a highly migratory species, the leatherback turtle, with pelagic longline fisheries. Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Pikesley SK, AC Broderick, D Cejudo, MS Coyne, M Godfrey, BJ Godley, P Lopez, López-Jurado, L Felipe, M Sonia, N Varo-Cruz, MJ Witt, LA Hawkes (2014).  Modelling the niche for a marine vertebrate: a case study incorporating behavioural plasticity, proximate threats and climate change. Ecography 38:  1-10. 

Pikesley SK, Maxwell SM, Pendoley K, Costa DP, Coyne MS, Formia A, Godley BJ, Klein W, Makanga-Bahouna J, Maruca S, Ngouessono S, Parnell RJ, Pemo-Makaya E, Witt MJ (2013). On the front line: integrated habitat mapping for olive ridley sea turtles in the southeast Atlantic. Diversity and Distributions 19:1518-1530

Witt MJ, Hardy T, Johnson L, McClellan CM, Pikesley SK, Ranger S, Richardson PB, Solandt JL, Speedie C, Williams R and Godley BJ (2012). Basking sharks in the northeast Atlantic: spatio-temporal trends from sightings in UK waters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 459:121-134

Witt MJ, Broderick AC and Godley BJ et al. (2012). Assessing the biodiversity impacts of wave energy: the Wave Hub experience. Transactions of the Royal Society A 370:502-529

Merchant ND, Witt MJ, Blondel P, Godley BJ, Smith GH (2012). Assessing sound exposure from shipping in coastal waters using a hydrophone and Automatic Identification System data. Marine Pollution Bulletin 64:1320-1329

Witt MJ, Bonguno EA, Broderick AC, Coyne MS, Formia A, Mounguengui Mounguengui GA, Moussounda C, NSafou M, Nougessono S, Parnell RJ, Sounguet G-P, Verhage S, Godley BJ (2011). High levels of threat on the high seas: tracking leatherback turtles from the world’s largest rookery. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:2338-2347

Witt MJ, Åkesson S, Broderick AC, Coyne MS, Ellick J, Formia A, Hays GC, Luschi P, Stroud S and Godley BJ (2010). Assessing accuracy of satellite tracking data using Argos-linked Fastloc GPS. Animal Behaviour 80:571-581

Witt MJ, Hawkes LA, Godfrey MH, Godley BJ and Broderick AC (2010). Predicting the impacts of climate change on a globally distributed species: the case of the loggerhead turtle. Journal of Experimental Biology 213:901-911

Votier SC, Bearhop S, Witt MJ, Inger R, Thompson D and Newson J (2010). Links between commercial fisheries and centrally placed marine predators: studying individual-level responses using GPS tracking, stable isotopes and vessel monitoring systems. Journal of Applied Ecology 47:487-497

Witt MJ and Godley BJ (2007). A step towards seascape scale conservation: using VMS to map fishing activity. PLoS One 2:e1111