The focus of his thesis research is the dietary habits of the Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi). According to Andrew, water quality along the river may help to explain some of the dietary habits observed, which can help to design and implement plans to conserve this New Mexico state-threatened species.
Andrew says being involved with the water-quality project allowed him to observe and work in a new environment. Coming to New Mexico from growing up in Florida was “an interesting and exciting experience for me, filled with new environments and animals to learn about.”
His first trip to Black River was last fall when his group camped a short drive away from their study sites at a campground in Whites City, New Mexico. Conducting the water-quality research along the Black River allowed him to understand the river system better and to work with other graduate and undergraduate students who assisted.
Andrew says working with Dr. Mali and receiving the NM WRRI student grant opened up many opportunities and learning experiences. Under her guidance, he hopes to apply what he learned in his future career.
“Through the grant, our research project was funded and we were able to purchase equipment to test for different parameters along the river at our study sites,” Andrew said. “I learned about the equipment and tools needed to monitor water quality, which was a new subject field to me.
“Previously, I had no experience with water quality research, but through this project I was able to gain a new skill-set related to freshwater research. This project is long-term and will give future undergraduate and graduate researchers the opportunity to conduct side projects to better help understand Black River.”
Andrew says the grant from NM WRRI and his academic studies at ENMU have given him the opportunity to conduct research and present on different topics including water quality, differences in population demographics in Texas and New Mexico, the Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), and his thesis research regarding the diet of P. gorzugi.
“I have improved my presentation skills, field skills, and how to communicate science to others through my coursework, teaching laboratories as a graduate teaching assistant, and from the research opportunities I have led or assisted with,” Andrew said.
“I plan to take a year off after completion of my master’s and get an internship where I can further hone my skills as a researcher before pursuing a PhD in either landscape ecology or wildlife management. I would like to thank the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute for providing the funding for this opportunity, Dr. Mali for guiding me and helping to answer my questions, and the assistants who helped with field work.”
Andrew presented the project at NM WRRI’s 62nd Annual New Mexico Water Conference.