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Matthew Cobain

Project Title:  Webtracer: building new models for stable isotope ecology

Email: Matthew Cobain

Address: Zoology Building

Research Interests

Having completed a master’s degree (integrated) in marine biology at the University of Southampton in 2014, I stayed on to undertake at PhD under the supervision of Clive Trueman. The focus of my research was on quantifying the dynamics of fish community structure and function. This included analysis of large fisheries survey datasets, but the main focus revolved around generating and analysing my own stable isotope dataset of the local estuarine fish community, sampled at high temporal resolution (monthly) over a full annual cycle. During this time, I undertook a research placement at EAWAG, Switzerland, working with Blake Matthews on geometric theory of isotopic niches, as well as attending the complexity science summer school in Sante Fe, New Mexico, working on a project revolving around information theory as applied to natural sciences.  

After finishing my PhD in 2018, I took up a post-doctoral research associate position at Newcastle University, working with Nick Polunin on the Coldfish Project as part of the wider Changing Arctic Ocean program ( The project aimed to better understand the food web structure of the fish community in the Barents Sea through stable isotopes, with my role managing all things bulk. This involved spending significant time at sea sampling during the Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey, generating one of the largest biological bulk stable isotope datasets, and its subsequent analysis. Due to significant lab delays associated with the covid pandemic, this work is still ongoing. 

I joined the Jackson Lab as a post-doctoral fellow in April 2021 as part of the Webtracer project, with the aim of better understanding the limits of ecological inference that can be obtained using stable isotopes. This work will not only be grounded in theoretical development, but also empirically testing using datasets from the newly established isobank, as well as data generated through the coldfish project. 

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