Thompson Delivers Biology Brown Bag Seminar

Natalie Rogers March 26, 2015

Virginia Thompson, PhD candidate in Biology at UNM and project participant in the NM EPSCoR RII3 project (Climate Change Impacts on New Mexico's Mountain Sources of Water), delivered the Department of Biology's March brown bag seminar on her research on submerged aquatic macrophytes (SAMs). Virginia's research over the last several years, including the research she did under the EPSCoR banner, has focused on the plants that live in the waters of the Valles Caldera National Park—specifically, in the East Fork Jemez River. While initially focusing simply "biological snapshots" of the plants and their surrounding ecosystems, Virginia and her colleagues (including our own Dr. Becky Bixby!) had a unique opportunity to study the effects of fire on the ecosystems in the Caldera after the 2011 Las Conchas fire and the 2013 Thompson Ridge fire.

SAMs are not present in every body of water, but when they are present they have a huge impact. According to Virginia, SAMs are "ecosystem engineers," meaning the plants change the ecosystem for their own benefit, which in turn changes surrounding resources that affect other parts of the ecosystem. So far, Virginia's research on the effects of fire have been very interesting in that fires do affect SAMs, but the impact has more to do with the aftermath of the fires. For example, while many SAMs were lost during the floods after the Las Conchas fire, the phosphorus-rich ash from the fire caused a shift in the ratio of carbon to phosphorus, effectively creating a fertilization effect and allowing the dominant SAM, Elodia canadensis to recover in a big way.

Virginia's research in the Caldera is continuing as she completes her PhD. Among other things, she is currently measuring nutrient stoichiometry to find any changes in nutrients and in biomass. You can learn more about Virginia's research, biomass, and SAMs in our YouTube video, Fun with Submerged Aquatic Macrophytes!

Images above courtesy of Virginia Thompson, UNM

This is the first in a series of posts about impacts and outcomes from our previous grant.