Aquatic Ecology

Unlike the Rio Grande, ditches that are adjacent to the river are permanent water sources and a potential source of flying invertebrate fauna to the river. In this project, the student would conduct a comparison of aquatic fauna from ditches and the Rio Grande main channel at the Sevilleta NWR. Comparisons can be made between the different habitats: is there a different invertebrate community? Is there different vegetation? What about the substrate? (Mentor: Ayesha Burdett)

The Rio Grande has an extremely variable flow regime, from extremely low flows to huge floods that spill out over the banks. There are several areas adjacent to the river that are inundated during large floods but remain dry for most of the year. Evidence from other locations indicates that there is a ‘bank’ of dehiscent invertebrates in the soil that are able to respond rapidly to flooding. Is there a similar ‘bank’ at the Sevilleta? Are different organisms found in areas with different flooding frequencies? (Mentor: Ayesha Burdett)

Water is a rare resource in aridland ecosystems like those found in the Northern Chihuauan Desert. However, there are over 40 know artesian springs in the refuge each of which would harbor an interesting insect fauna. A biogeographic comparison of insect (or algae) dynamics of stream insect communities in artesian springs compared to wildlife watering areas would help us document the kinds of insects in the region and the importance of these water sources to their long-term survival. (Mentor: Scott Collins)

The Sevilleta NWR is home to about 40 small springs spread across the landscape. Some remain in a natural condition and others have been modified to become watering points for animals. These springs are vital water sources for aquatic organisms, and represent different types of microhabitats with different environmental niches. However, there have been limited surveys of organisms in these springs. This project would involve collecting invertebrates to gain an understanding of distributions of different taxa in relation to the different microhabitats. (Mentor: Ayesha Burdett)