ENMU Student Awarded Grant to Research Wildfire Impacts on Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Ecosystems
By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Specialist
Jodie Montgomery, a BS student majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Eastern New Mexico University, was awarded a Fall 2022 Student Water Research Grant by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI). Under the supervision of her faculty advisor Dr. Zachary Mitchell, her project, titled “Effects of catastrophic wildfire on stream macroinvertebrate communities in northern New Mexico,” will focus on the environmental impacts of wildfires on stream ecosystems and aquatic communities.
In Montgomery’s proposal, she highlights research citing rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and earlier snowmelt as fundamental causes of forest fire frequency and severity. Environmental disasters such as this can have long-lasting effects on stream ecosystems, including water quality degradation, reduced oxygen availability, and damaged vegetation cover that protects stream water from direct sunlight. These effects in turn negatively impact aquatic communities by reducing the number of macroinvertebrates available as a feeding source for several types of fish.
Investigating the change in these dynamics is the objective of Montgomery’s research. She plans to study the impacts of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires of 2022 on the macroinvertebrate aquatic structure in the Pecos Wilderness in Northern New Mexico. She will use her grant funding from NM WRRI to collect samples affected by burn from local sites every four weeks and compare them with previously collected baseline river population data. Montgomery states that this award has provided her with many new opportunities to gain first-hand experience in understanding the true nature of wildfire devastation on the environment. She predicts her research outcomes will strengthen the argument that wildfires leave a damaging impact on aquatic ecosystems, including macroinvertebrates which are integral to steam sustainability. Montgomery plans to produce a peer-review manuscript from her research findings and present her research at both state and regional meetings.
When asked about the future impacts of her research in water management, Montgomery stated that “Wildfires are growing more significant and intense each year, presenting a unique and challenging opportunity to study affected streams. I hope this research can assist in continued studies and increase our understanding of our freshwater systems after catastrophic wildfires. Countless species require these montane streams for survival, and it’s important for these species that we keep learning as the world around us continues to change.”
Montgomery was born and raised in Roseburg, Oregon, and moved to New Mexico when her husband enlisted in the United States air force. In her spare time, she enjoys working with ceramics and spending time outdoors either camping, hiking, or swimming. Playing music with her husband is also one of her favorite pastimes. After graduation, she plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a career in restoration or land management.