August 2020 eNews

Meet the Researcher, Julie Tsatsaros, Instructor/Visiting Associate Professor, New Mexico Highlands University

Meet the Researcher, Julie Tsatsaros, Instructor/Visiting Associate Professor, New Mexico Highlands University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month we are meeting Julie Tsatsaros, who is an instructor/visiting associate professor in the Forestry Department at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU). She has been in her position for four years, and currently teaches several undergraduate and graduate courses focusing on environmental science, aquatic ecology, watershed management, surface water hydrology, lake ecology (limnology), environmental toxicology, and applied forestry research methods.

Within her teaching curriculum, she prioritizes integrating knowledge from numerous areas of study (water science, forestry, ecology, economics, social science, public policy, etc.) to give students a well-rounded view of resource management with the understanding that all problems are multi-dimensional.  This is key because in order to provide a sustainable solution to a problem all aspects must be examined and evaluated. According to Julie, she feels the most important aspect of her position is to provide students with a scientifically relevant and progressive educational understanding of the natural environment that will help improve the sustainable utilization and stewardship of land, water, and forest resources.

Tsatsaros received her BES degree with honors in environmental studies from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She went on to obtain her MS degree in limnology from Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan.  She later earned her PhD in water resources from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. Julie feels her time spent in New Mexico and abroad has strengthened her ability to present her students with real-world examples and practical experiences. Her work involvement with several New Mexico state agencies, nonprofits, consulting firms, and international agricultural research organizations also contributed to her diverse expertise, and allows her to provide her students with actual case studies to assist them in formulating new solutions to natural resource issues.

In addition to her teaching obligations, Julie oversees several master students as a research committee member for the Forestry Department at NMHU, and is also the Graduate Research Coordinator for the Master of Science in Natural Science Concentration in Environmental Science and Management. She is additionally a forestry faculty representative member on the NMHU Graduate Council, and a faculty board member to the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance. Within these roles, Tsatsaros effectively monitors the results of reports, designs new research procedures, seeks and secures funding opportunities, improves student enrollment, increases community engagement, and other vital tasks.

Recently, Tsatsaros served as a faculty mentor for the NMHU Alliance for Minority Participation, which assisted in awarding scholarships provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to underrepresented undergraduate conservation management students in the Forestry Department.  Students mentored by Julie performed monitoring and assessment research for a local nonprofit organization on water quality issues in the perennial streams located in northern New Mexico.  This research was used to contribute to watershed monitoring and assessment for the New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau, and Region Six of the Environmental Protection Agency.

At present, Tsatsaros is a researcher on the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology grant funded by the NSF.  This five-year $5 million grant extends through 2024, and is a partnership with NMHU Forestry Department, the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, and New Mexico State University’s John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center. While the main goal of the grant is to improve forest health and resiliency, Julie states that her main focus is to help increase NMHU student retention and competency through integrated field-based curriculum and professional research, and help pave their way in becoming future forest managers and researchers.

Tsatsaros’s latest work was published in 2018 for the open access journal Water, entitled, Indigenous Water Governance in Australia: Comparisons with the United States and Canada.  A link to this article can be found here. In addition to her most recent study, Tsatsaros and her colleagues currently have two research manuscripts in various stages of publication that focus on integrating biophysical and social science related research methods to improve coastal water resource conditions.  One is to be featured in a special edition of the Marine Pollution Bulletin in October 2020, entitled, Supporting Community Led Water Quality Monitoring in River Basins Adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The other was submitted to the Journal of Environmental Management in April 2020, entitled, Improving Water Quality in the Wet Tropics, Australia: A Conceptual Framework and Case Study.

Next year, Tsatsaros plans to work as an Aquatic Ecologist Professor at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the Life Sciences Department at the UWI Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. Once there, Julie has stated she will be promoting the possibility of extensive collaborations between NMHU, other New Mexico universities, and educational institutions to potentially create new learning experiences and research opportunities for students in New Mexico and the Caribbean. In this regard, she plans to continue providing both a challenging and rewarding education for all her students, and inspire them through motivation and enthusiasm to continue their goals of becoming future resource practitioners and managers.

Tsatsaros’s future goals consist of continuing her current efforts with multidisciplinary student and community groups by assisting with outreach, extension activities, and education to help them identify their ideal environmental outcomes and how to obtain them. According to Julie, she hopes to assist in bridging connections between research, education, professional training, and business expertise to vastly improve social, economic, and environmental issues that are both realistic and implementable.