Senior project scientists with an established record of responsible mentorship have agreed to be mentors. Most mentors have considerable experience supervising research projects by REU students and have directed experimental projects by undergraduate students working for research credit during the academic year. We believe that the UNM faculty mentors, with their broad range of research interests and extensive mentoring experience, as well as their commitment to student success, offer students an outstanding opportunity to acquire experience and knowledge in ecology, the geosciences and meteorology.

REU students may be given access to the research equipment of the faculty members who serve as their mentors. In the past, many faculty have also maintained an open door policy and have shared equipment with REU students working with other investigators.

DO NOT contact the mentors until you have been accepted into the REU Program – if you have questions about the mentors please contact the program manager (

Amaris Swann
1934303_14925860786_9350_nAmaris currently works at UNM.  She was previously the Sevilleta Field Station Manager and had conducted research on the SNWR for 8 years. Along with this she has been a liaison between faculty and graduate students in the UNM Biology Department. By fostering these relationships, she has been able to diversify mentors and project availability for students during the REU program. Her background is in population biology with a focus on conservation and she uses her knowledge and experience to help guide REU students through this exciting endeavor. She has directly mentored 5 REU students in the past 6 years in projects ranging from small mammal population dynamics to vegetation responses to fire, but, in effect, she is a mentor to all the students who participate in our program each year.

Anny Chung

Anny Chung is a PhD student at the University of New Mexico. She studies plant-microbe interactions and how they influence plant community dynamics such as diversity, composition, and species turnover. Most of her work currently takes place in the desert grassland communities looking at the interactions between grama grasses, biological soil crusts, and rhizospheric microbes.


Ayesha Burdett
Ayesha Burburdett-headshotdett is the Bioscience Curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. She is an aquatic ecologist with a special interest in invertebrate communities. Her research focuses on how invertebrate communities and food webs differ over time and among different habitats, particularly in systems with variable flow regimes. She has mentored eight students through the Sevilleta REU program since 2009. In the past three years, she has helped create near-peer mentoring events, bringing the Sevilleta undergraduate students to the Museum to meet middle and high school students in the Junior Docent program.

Becky Bixby
beckyBecky is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico.  As a freshwater phycologist, broad questions that interest Becky include:  (1) What species inhabit the Earth?:  (2) Why are species found where they are?; and (3) How do species respond to environmental and biological stressors?   These questions have driven her research program that utilizes diatoms as model organisms to ask broader questions about microbial biogeography and species responses to stressors.  She utilizes cross-disciplinary methods including systematics, morphometrics, ecology, taxonomy, and univariate and multivariate statistics to address these questions.  Her local projects include the human and natural impacts on diatom biodiversity and abundance in aridland rivers.

Blair Wolf
blair.jpgBlair Wolf is a professor in the Biology Department at the University of NM and he investigates how short and long-term climate variability affects productivity and the dynamics of resource use by consumers. His work also looks at the physiological ecology of animals and the importance of specific resources to consumer nutritional ecology


Brian Alfaro

brianBrian is a PhD. student at the University of New Mexico. He studies evolutionary and ecological processes that contribute to invasiveness in plants. In his research he is examining genetic diversity and phenotypic plasticity to reveal invasion patterns and advantageous traits of plants in their native and introduced ranges. He mentors students who are interested in plant ecology, invasive plants, and evolutionary ecology.

Catherine Harris
cath.jpgCatherine Page Harris addresses land and land use through her artwork. She holds an MFA from Stanford (2005) and a MLA from UC Berkeley (1997). She practiced as a landscape architect in San Francisco and in Albuquerque, working on residential and public projects including William McCovey Park in San Francisco and an historic Masterplan and renovation of St. Francis Woods’ parks and streetscapes. Her artwork has been shown in the DiRosa Museum in Napa Valley, the Lab and Southern Exposure in San Francisco, the Emily Harvey Gallery in New York, and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis. She is currently working on understanding lines in the landscape and how built form alters the dynamic patterns of landscape.

Cristina Takacs-Vesbach

Takacs-Vesbach_Tina5_1_0Cristina is a Professor in Biology at UNM.  She is a microbial ecologist investigating the factors determining the productivity, diversity, and distribution of microorganisms in the natural environment.  Her research is focused on extreme environments where temperatures and other physico-chemical factors are inhospitable to most life, other than microorganisms. She uses both classical microbiological tools and next generation sequencing and genomics to investigate the microbial responses to variations in
temperature, moisture and nutrients.  Potential REU projects would focus on evaluating microbial responses to long-term soil manipulations conducted at the Sevilleta.  She has mentored >30 undergraduate students at UNM

Don Natvig
don.jpgDon is a biology professor at the University of New Mexico whose research interests focus on evolutionary molecular biology and comparative biochemistry, fungal genetics, and biochemical adaptations accompanying life in the presence of oxygen.


Esteban Muldavin
este.jpgEsteban is the Division Leader and Ecology Coordinator of Natural Heritage New Mexico. His areas of expertise are community ecology, ecological assesment, and vegetation mapping.


Felisa Smith
fe3lishaFelisa’s research ultimately aims to understand why organisms are the size they are and what the ecological and evolutionary consequences are of being a certain size. She suspects that there are a suite of complex and dynamic trade offs between physiology, life history, environment, phylogeny, and past history, all of which interact to influence the ulitmate size of an organism.


Jennifer Rudgers

jennJenn is a professor of Biology at UNM. Her research explores the roles of plant-microbe symbioses in buffering plant populations and communities under climate change. She has mentored >80 undergraduate students, including REU recipients (Sevilleta, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, and on individual NSF awards). She has published 27 papers with undergraduate first or co-authors, and she co-directed the UNM Honors Biology program (with Newsome), including teaching an Honors Writing Seminar each spring. Her group uses long-term manipulative experiments at the Sevilleta to test abiotic drivers of community
structure and ecosystem processes. She also established an experiment to evaluate the effects of biological soil crusts on plant, microbe, and arthropod communities as well as associated biogeochemical cycles. Potential REU projects at the Sevilleta include experiments on plant-soil feedbacks and their role in plant community structure, drivers of ring formation in perennial grasses, tests of the ecological roles of root associated fungi, and characterization of plant and fungal community traits.

Jon Erz
jonJon is a Wildlife Biologist at Sevilleta NWR. His current refuge programs inclue exotic invasive plant management, habitat restoration, waterfowl management, wildlife surveys and monitoring, and re-introduction of Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs.


Kathy Granillo

kathyKathy works for the US Fish & Wildlife Service and has been Refuge Manager at the SNWR since 2010. Prior to becoming refuge manager, she was a member of the team that developed the FWS Strategic Plan and Action Plan for Climate Change, and then Acting Regional Climate Change Coordinator for the Southwest Region. She was the Regional Refuge Biologist in the Southwest Region from 1993 to 2008. She has an MS in Wildlife Resources from the University of Idaho, and a BS in Forestry from UC Berkeley. Her primary area of interest is birds. She served as a mentor for the REU program for 10 students over the past 6 years, all conducting research on the threatened Gray Vireo population at SNWR. She has offered presentation training (in the style of Toastmasters) to the REU students during the last three years.

Ken Whitney
kenKen is a professor of Biology at UNM. His research program integrates ecological, comparative, and microevolutionary studies to understand the evolutionary trajectories of populations and the structure of communities in the wild.  In particular, he focuses on four core areas: causes and consequences of interspecific hybridization, invasion biology, maintenance and effects of genetic diversity, and the evolution of genome size.  He often uses plants and their animal associates (herbivores, seed dispersers, pollinators, ant guards) as study systems.

Les McFadden
les.jpgLes is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of New Mexico. The main focus of his research concerns the study of soil morphology and soil genesis and the application of these studies to research in landscape evolution, environmental (seismic, volcanic, mixed waste) hazards, paleoclimate, archology and ecology. Applications of soil-based research to problems in Quaternary studies and geomorphology, including landscape evolution and paleoclimate, numerical modeling studies of calcic soils, and analyses of seismic, volcanic and flood hazards. Current research interests include the influence of the sun and the solar path on physical weathering of rocks in the deserts.

Marcy Litvak

litvakMarcy is a an Associate Professor in Biology at UNM. Semi-arid ecosystems are characterized by long periods of drought separated by precipitation pulses. She is currently measuring whole ecosystem responses to precipitation pulses in desert grass, shrub, and woodland ecosystems using tower-based micrometeorological techniques. Detailed physiological studies of the dominant components of the ecosystem (soil respiration, leaf-level gas exchange, and chamber measurements of net ecosystem exchange) are used to interpret ecosystem-scale responses.  Potential REU projects include quantifying how various ecosystem components respond to changes in light availability, soil moisture, and temperature. These will provide hands-on training in established techniques used commonly in the fields of physiological ecology and ecosystem ecology. She has mentored eight REU students over the past nine years.

Mark Stone

mark-stoneMark is an Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at UNM. His focus area is in water resources with an emphasis on ecohydraulics, ecohydrology, and sustainable watershed management. His career goal is to improve the balance between human society and the natural environment through his research, teaching, mentoring, and service. His research interests are focused on the interfaces between hydraulic engineering, aquatic ecology, and fluvial geomorphology. He has been involved with dozens of field, laboratory, and computational research projects covering topics such as fish passage through dams and culverts, vegetation bending and washout during floods, design guidance for stream restoration projects, climate change impacts, and water availability in developing countries.

Mason Ryan
masonMason is a 6th year PhD candidate at UNM and has been working on the Sevilleta the last two years studying drought impacts on lizard density and behavior. He has spent the last 15 years studying amphibians and lizards in New York, California, New Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.  His work is very field oriented focused on understanding how communities are assembled and respond to environmental change.  As part of this work Mason has mentored many students in field study design, data collection, and analysis, as well as published four papers with these students.

Meggan Gould
meggan.jpgMeggan is an Assistant Profesor of Photography in UNM’s Department of Art and Art History. Meggan’s photographic work primarily seeks to visualize the act of seeing in new ways, using photographs and the act of photographing as a departure point in various groups of work.



Paulette Ford

plfordPaulette is a Research Ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and USFS.  She is with the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program in Albuquerque. Her current research is a comprehensive program focused on the long-term effects of disturbance (drought, disease, fire) on shortgrass steppe and desert grasslands, and piñon-juniper woodlands. The studies are aimed at understanding how these unique and important systems function in the face of changing disturbance patterns and climate including large and devastating wildfires. She has served as a host to interns from Historically Black Colleges and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.  She has spoken at least four times at UNM’s Sevilleta Field Station to SEEDS and REU students about careers with the Federal government and her path to becoming a scientist.

Renee Brown
renRenee is a technical research staff member with the Sevilleta LTER Program and the Sevilleta Field Station. She has a background in both computer science and ecology, with a passion for integrating technology with ecological field research. Her research interests include environmental sensor networks, wireless technologies, climate change, biogeochemical cycles, and aridland ecosystems. She is interested in mentoring students who would like to learn how to use technology (e.g. environmental sensors, photovoltaic systems, wireless) to perform ecological

Scott Collins
scottScott has served as the PI on two previous REU Sites Awards (2008-10, 2010-16). In 2005, he established an ESA SEEDS Chapter in Biology at UNM with founding Student Rep Jolene Trujillo (now an analyst at EPA). The Sevilleta hosted a SEEDS field trip in 2005 and the SEEDS Leadership conference in 2008. Also, he helped establish a SEEDS Chapter at Arizona State with student co-Rep Ricardo Duran, a 2010 Sevilleta REU student. His research investigates the role of climate variability, fire and herbivores on plant community structure and ecosystem processes in mesic and arid grassland. He is involved in several long-term manipulative experiments at the Sevilleta that address the impact of global change on community structure and ecosystem functioning. Potential REU projects may link resource availability, species interactions and community structure in the complex, dynamic and variable environments found at the Sevilleta. He has mentored nine REU students during the past nine years.

Stephanie Baker
20140506_090536Stephanie is the Program Manager for the UNM Sevilleta Field Station and was previously a Research Scientist for the Sevilleta LTER for 6 years. She has worked for the Jornada LTER and Sevilleta LTER for a combination of 9 years. She specializes in native New Mexico flora and has years of experience handling and identifying local small rodent populations. Her research interests here at the Sevilleta are the interactions of rodent and plant populations across the transition of grasslands to shrublands. She mentors students that are interested in a balance of both small mammals and plant communities.


Taffeta Elliot

ElliottCactusSqLoDr. Taffeta Elliott uses behavioral and neurophysiology approaches in amphibians to understand how the acoustic features in communication sounds inform behavioral decisions about what to vocalize and whether to mate. In the Psychology Dept. at New Mexico Tech, the Elliott lab investigates the auditory brain circuits that support vocal communication in the South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Her research focuses on the interface between auditory perception of calls and the motor plan of a vocal response.  In the summer of 2016, her first Sevilleta REU mentee and her observed acoustic competition between native frog species and the invasive non-native bullfrog in the middle Rio Grande valley.

Travis Rusch

Travis is a PhD. Student at Arizona State University. He studies behavioral and physiological responses of ectotherms to varying thermal environments. His primary research measures thermoregulatory performance of lizards by manipulating various aspects of the thermal environment; such as shade availability and distribution, and adding conspecific competitors or simulating the threat of predators.

William Pockman

pockman.jpgWill is a Professor and Chair in Biology at UNM.  His research investigates the physiological factors determining the distribution and performance of plants with particular emphasis on the role of water transport limitations in the context of climate variability and extreme events in determining plant mortality and changes in community and ecosystem ecology in grasslands, shrublands, woodlands and forest. He leads and/or collaborates in long-term manipulative experiments at the Sevilleta to understand the effects of global change on community structure and ecosystem functioning. Potential REU projects may involve measurements of landscape scale patterns related to underlying differences in plant species’ physiological characteristics and direct measurements of plant performance to understand their functional limits. He has participated in the REU program supported by previous Site Awards (2008-2015). He has also participated in the SEEDs Leadership Conference hosted at Sevilleta in 2008. He has mentored one student and co-mentored 4 others with members of his lab and have presented REU seminars in many years.

William Schaedla

willWilliam is an instructor of Environmental Science at SIPI. Effective environmental monitoring of semi-arid ecosystems is of vital importance to Indian country. Carbon, nutrient, and water flows all have the potential to impact land management practices and decision-making by the governments of Southwestern Tribes. However, internal technical capacity is largely lacking in these areas. He is currently designing classes and student activities to address these needs among Native American students. Inclusion of REU opportunities in the curriculum will be vital to this effort. His experience includes similar REU-type mentoring to more than 30 students doing fieldwork in the Southwestern United States, Latin America, and Asia.