New Mexico Water eNews


August 2015

FY16 Student Water Research Grant Program
Proposals due September 11, 2015, 5:00 p.m.

Students enrolled full-time in a four-year degree college program at a New Mexico educational institution are eligible for water-related research grants of up to $6,000.

Projects will start October 1, 2015.

For more information and proposal guidelines Click Here.

Alex Clark discusses the stream channel in the headwaters of the East Fork of the Jemez River in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, which has the burn scar from the Las Conchas fire, seen in the background.

UNM Undergraduate Studies Fire Ash Impacts
by Alexander Clark, University of New Mexico

As climatic conditions change and increased drought is predicted for the southwestern US, the frequency and severity of forest fires are expected to increase in this region. When fire ash and associated debris are transported into streams and rivers via erosion and precipitation, noticeable decreases in water quality occur including increased turbidity and lower levels of dissolved oxygen; these water quality issues impact the biota in these river systems. Algae, an important primary producer in freshwater ecosystems, form the base of many aquatic food webs and are often used to monitor the health of streams. Due to the importance of algae in stream ecology, Alex Clark’s research project examined the changes in water quality caused by inputs of fire ash to streams and the related effects on the growth of diatoms, a group of microscopic silica-based algae that are dominant in many ecosystems.

Based on field data from the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire in the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the associated transport of the ash into the Jemez River, Clark’s lab experiment looked at how diatom growth would be impacted by the change in pH that is observed when ash from forest fires enters stream systems. Previous projects indicated that fire ash may act as a fertilizer in the growth of diatoms, promoting growth and increasing the density of diatom cells. While growing these diatoms in the lab, Clark used fire ash leachate, the water-soluble portion of ash, to test the predicted changes in diatom growth. The presence of fire ash in the experiment slowed the growth of the diatoms. Although the results were not what were predicted, the short-term implications suggest that algae which survive the post-fire ash flow scouring the bottom of the stream can recover but at a slower rate compared to non-impacted streams in the short-term. This decrease in diatom density in a natural system could reduce the food resources for invertebrates and fish. The resultant decrease in food supply would limit the recovery of invertebrates and fish from the same disturbance, impacting the entire food web. Further research is needed to understand fully how ash affects diatom populations long-term. New research could test if decreased growth in algal populations due to fire ash is sustained.

Clark will complete his BS degree in biology and chemistry in 2016 from the University of New Mexico. This project, funded by an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant, is part of his Honor’s Thesis and was supervised by Dr. Becky Bixby of UNM’s Department of Biology.

Ethan Mamer, New Mexico Bureau of Geology, presented a poster at the 59th Annual Water Conference held in November 2014 at La Fonda in Santa Fe.

Call for Poster Abstracts
Abstracts due September 16, 2015, 5:00 p.m.

The theme for this year's water conference is Coloring Outside the Lines: Can Science Help Us Be Creative and Innovative in Managing Our Water? This conference provides a special opportunity to learn about New Mexico's possible water future from an impressive group of speakers, and to learn about current water research through a poster session that will be held during the conference on Friday morning, October 9.

Contact Information
Cathy Ortega Klett: 575-646-1195 or

Registration Fee
All poster presenters must register for the conference. The registration fee for students is $50, regular attendees is $75 through September 15 and $125 thereafter. Register online at

Sabrina Michael selects Red Shiners to be used in a trial for her turbidity and group cohesion experiment. Sabrina is working on an MS in biology at ENMU where she received a BS in biology. She is from Carlsbad, NM.

ENMU Student Studies Turbidity Impacts on Fish in the Canadian River
by Sabrina Michael, Eastern New Mexico University

I investigated to see if there are any differences in group cohesion, measured via average interfish distances, of two New Mexico cyprinid fish species, Notropis stramineus (Sand Shiner) and Cyprinella lutrensis (Red Shiner), depending on the turbidity of the environment. I collected both Red Shiners and Sand Shiners from the Canadian River drainage in New Mexico. I haphazardly separated the fish into 20 groups of five fish of the same species and approximate size for both Red Shiners and Sand Shiners; all groups went through three turbidity treatments (.34g/L, .68g/L, and 1.36g/L), and a control (no clay added). The order of exposure was randomly chosen using a random number generator.

To observe the fishes, a remotely operated digital camera was suspended 2m above a 1.5m galvanized round steel tank. The water depth was ~1.5 cm so that the fishes could be seen from above, even in turbid water, while allowing sufficient depth for swimming. After a five-minute acclimation period, recording would begin and end 10 minutes later. The camera was connected to a tablet computer, which used a custom designed (specifically for this research project) tracking program, BioSense®. The program uses the camera feed to track and record the distance between fish.

I tested the influence of the two species and turbidity at four levels including a control, and their interactions, on average inter-fish distances using a two-factor ANOVA with one factor being group identity due to the use of repeated measures. Red Shiners’ and Sand Shiners’ average interfish distances significantly increases in turbid water. However, we did not find any significant differences between sand shiners and red shiners using this metric. More analyses are necessary, using other metrics (e.g., group polarity, velocity, etc.) before we can conclude that the species respond similarly to turbidity. Thus far, we can conclude that turbidity can influence group cohesion during shoaling in some cyprinid fishes of New Mexico.

Sabrina Michael received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for this project and a final report detailing the project is available online. Click here to view. Sabrina's faculty advisor on the project was Dr. Marvin Lutnesky of ENMU, Biology Department.

Patrick Natoni (left) and Jon Williams (right

Welcome Patrick and Jon
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

The NM WRRI is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members. Jon Williams has been hired as the institute’s GIS Coordinator. He will be spearheading the effort to provide GIS data on our website, performing GIS analysis for research, and continuing our GIS collaboration with the National Park Service. Prior to joining the NM WRRI, Jon worked for Zia Engineering and Environmental Consultants in Las Cruces and was responsible for GIS data for a rangeland assessment for Fort Huachuca, AZ. Before that, Jon worked for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute as a project manager, researcher, and GIS analyst with a focus on climate change and environmental issues. Jon received a BA in cultural ecology from New College of California and an MS in geography, with a minor in GIS, from NMSU.

Patrick Natoni is the new Water Science and Management Coordinator. The interdisciplinary masters and doctoral program was developed at NMSU by a team of water experts and is now in its fourth year. The program provides graduate education for addressing state, national, and international water issues. Currently, 30 students are enrolled in the program, representing nine countries including Ghana, China, Mexico, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Turkey, India, and the U.S. Patrick will work with a team of faculty from participating departments and will assist students applying to the program and work with accepted students through their degree attainment. Patrick received two bachelors’ degrees from NMSU in marketing and international business, and in leadership management. He has vast experience in student services, advising, admissions, recruitment, and student financial aid. Patrick said recently, “My goals are to increase the number of students in the program by working closely with faculty and to focus on retention efforts so that students will graduate and attain that ideal career in Water Sciences and Management after they leave NMSU.”

60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference

The NM WRRI annual conference is the perfect opportunity to congregate, communicate, and collaborate with colleagues and others interested in New Mexico’s water issues.

Sagebrush Inn and Suites • Taos, New Mexico • October 7-9, 2015

Program • 25 knowledgeable and excellent speakers

$75 Early Registration • on or before September 15, 2015

$50 Student Registration • for full-time students

Poster Session • abstracts due September 16, 2015

Tours • held on the afternoon of October 7, 2015

MCLE credits approved • 9.5 general credits for day-and-a-half conference

Copyright © 2015 New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, All rights reserved.
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