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December 2021 eNews

Transboundary Groundwater Resiliency Research Network Holds First Virtual Kickoff Event

Transboundary Groundwater Resiliency Research Network Holds First Virtual Kickoff Event

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

On November 16, 2021, the Transboundary Groundwater Resiliency Research (TGRR) network (funded by the National Science Foundation’s AccelNet program) launched its first virtual kickoff event on Zoom to more than 70 interested participants. This hour-long meeting offered just one of several opportunities to provide input on the challenges and needs for more effective transboundary groundwater research and management. In collaboration with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute aspires to create a new, international network of networks that connects hydrology, social science, data science, and systems science networks to establish a novel TGRR approach.

The meeting began with Sam Fernald, Director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute and Principal Investigator (PI) on the project, and Ashley Atkins, one of the project’s Co-PIs and the Executive Director of the West Big Data Innovation Hub, welcoming everyone to the meeting with opening remarks. Atkins set the stage by explaining that the network was “rooted in the idea that harnessing advances in data science and system science can help build on and work with existing transboundary water networks to help answer critical questions in ways that haven’t been previously possible, and in ways that can meet the diverse needs and priorities of stakeholders to create a more resilient transboundary groundwater future.”

Fernald spoke on the overall goals of the research and provided background on the TGRR network’s efforts. He explained there is a situation with water scarcity in the Mesilla Basin/Conejos Médanos aquifer system and the Hueco Bolson due to climate change and drought. The aquifers’ location on the U.S.-Mexico border creates international challenges but also unique opportunities for collaboration. Fernald stated that the proposed TGRR approach seeks to “understand why this depletion occurs and offer some solutions with this understanding of the complex interconnected systems.”

Fellow Co-PI, Christine Kirkpatrick, who oversees the San Diego Supercomputer Center’s (SDSC) Research Data Services Division, began her presentation with a collaborative activity for all participants using an interactive digital whiteboard. The focus of this activity was to create a stakeholder map documenting groups or organizations who would be interested in the project and cataloging important issues. Kirkpatrick described the purpose of this task as being able to identify who are the stakeholders so goals and priorities of the network can be anchored in what matters to the community and become useful to the people who need this research the most. On January 21, 2022, from 9:00-10:00 AM MT, TGRR will host an interactive and virtual follow-up meeting to gain more input from the community and further prioritize the topics recorded on the Jamboard during the Kickoff. Click here to register for the TGRR Community Jamboard Workshop.

Ilya Zaslavsky, Co-PI and Director of the SDSC Spatial Information Systems Laboratory, gave his presentation on an elaborate survey developed to help manage network outreach and response. A goal of this survey was to give individuals a chance to share their different perspectives and expertise with one another in hopes of creating new research collaborations and finding project development partners. For those interested, please click here to participate in this informative opportunity.

Fernald gave closing remarks to remind the audience this was the first event hosted by the TGRR, and there is a real opportunity for the community to help strengthen this network to meet the objectives of stakeholders and become a robust network of networks to better understand the challenges and needs of conserving transboundary groundwater resources.

To view the YouTube recording of this meeting and all presentations given at this event, please click here. For additional TGRR events, please join us starting January 28, 2022, from 10:00-11:00 AM MT, for the beginning of our virtual Collective Learning Meetings (CLM) featuring researchers who will be sharing their upcoming water-related research. CLMs are for graduate students and early-career researchers to obtain collegial and non-evaluative feedback on their unfinished or exploratory research projects. These meetings are in collaboration with the Worchester Polytechnic Institute, and will be held bi-monthly through Zoom, and will cover systems approaches to water resiliency research. For more information on CLMs, click here. If you are interested in presenting, please fill out this form, and indicate in the presentation description that you are a TGRR member.

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December 2021 eNews

Meet the Researcher, Barbara Chamberlin, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Barbara Chamberlin, New Mexico State University

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month’s featured researcher is Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, professor and interim department head for the Innovative Media Research and Extension Department, at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Chamberlin has assisted in creating educational tools for several water partners and enjoys making new connections with water experts across the state. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) is excited to work with Chamberlin on their first formal collaboration titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets (SWIM). This research effort will focus on creating more advanced and robust data-driven information systems for stakeholders and other decision-makers by improving how information is shared. These information systems will improve the accuracy of water-based judgments, measurements, and evaluations leading to more secure, sustainable surface and groundwater use. For more information on the SWIM project, please visit the project’s website at the link above, or read NM WRRI’s November eNews article, NM WRRI Receives Funding to Investigate Improvements to Agricultural and Environmental Water Resilience, which describes the project and current collaboration efforts.

In addition to her work with NM WRRI, Chamberlin pursues other research opportunities by partnering with fellow researchers and educators to develop and design educational media. This can consist of games, apps, animations, videos, websites, virtual reality (VR) programs, and interactive labs. Once the media of choice is selected and created, she guides the project through instructional design. Chamberlin describes her job during the design process as “making sure the production team understands the needs of the user, the best ways to teach the content, and the usability of the final product.” She explains that her entire unit is full of professional graphic artists, animators, and programmers who are also instructional designers because they understand the most important aspect of this position is creating meaningful change in the users of their products.

Chamberlin graduated with her BA in Communications Studies and an MA in Agricultural and Extension Education from NMSU. She earned her PhD in Educational Technology from the University of Virginia. Her PhD research sought to improve the quality of educational media products by asking two guiding questions: (1) how to design educational media that is effective, and (2) how to measure those media successes. Chamberlin believes adhering to these guidelines assists in the creation of products that can be accurately measured and designed with intent. Concerning her research, Chamberlin stated, “I love so many aspects of what our team here does—from the creative activity of making a game, the process of testing it with kids or other users, and learning about the content for all the different products.”

Chamberlin has been affiliated with NMSU for over 30 years and feels like her position has evolved over the years. “In addition to making good projects, I realize it is my job to make sure our team members have great experiences as well,” she states. “That includes some amount of mentorship and training, but it’s also about managing our work processes and day-to-day operations to make our department a positive place to work and engage everyone on our team with work that is meaningful to them.” Chamberlin and her team have been awarded several honors for their games, including one titled, Night of the Living Debt, which won Best Overall Digital Game at the Meaningful Play Conference (2016), and gold recognition at the International Serious Play Awards. To view a list of some of their games, please click here.

Chamberlin encourages anyone looking to join the research field to consider the benefits of technology, and how it can be used to share research (such as a video or animation that summarizes it succinctly or communicates findings appropriately to the right audience), and help prepare people to use the results of that research. Providing producers and water managers with different avenues to view and comprehend data could help them better understand prerequisite information and enable them to make more informed decisions. She defines this creation process as articulating a problem to be solved and then developing a procedure to figure out what kind of change is needed to solve it. Creating technology can involve researching which audience is being targeted and then designing a product to address the problem. The solution can be a simple creation, such as a three-minute animation summarizing key points within a project, but sometimes it can involve a more intricate, multi-phase approach to accurately display research highlights.

Future research for Chamberlin and her team involves developing and perfecting VR projects. She is optimistic and sees this as a good opportunity for her department to display and blend their talents to create an entirely new experience. A list of current media projects she and her team are working on include social media education campaigns on growing and eating microgreens, food safety concerning chicken products, and developing materials for youth on preventing food waste. These projects are being developed alongside six other media projects related to food safety-related work and a new game on water markets.

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December 2021 eNews

ENMU Student Studies Habitat Characteristics of the Rio Grande Cooter

ENMU Student Studies Habitat Characteristics of the Rio Grande Cooter

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

The Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi) is a freshwater turtle native to the Rio Grande and the Pecos River in New Mexico, Texas, and northeastern Mexico. The species is currently listed as threatened in New Mexico and Mexico, and is a species of greatest conservation need in Texas. In recent years, the species has been studied in tributaries of the Pecos River in New Mexico and Texas, but the Pecos River itself has not been surveyed for turtles in over a decade.

The Pecos River originates in the mountains of northern New Mexico and runs 926 miles through the Chihuahuan Desert before flowing into the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border. One of the river’s historic attributes is salinity caused by natural saline groundwater. Reduced flood frequency and diminished flows have caused an increase in salinity and a decrease in water quality. The river’s water quality can also be affected by dam construction, channelization, agriculture practices, etc. In addition to being arguably one of the most anthropogenically altered river systems in the southwest United States, the Pecos River continues to be a major water source and habitat for wildlife.

There is a gap in knowledge about how these environmental changes on the Pecos can impact freshwater turtle populations like P. gorzugi. NM WRRI has awarded Laramie Mahan, a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), a Student Water Research Grant to address this knowledge gap. The study, titled Occupancy and detection of Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi) on the Pecos River, aims to 1) determine the current distribution of P. gorzugi along the Pecos River, and 2) determine which environmental and habitat characteristics contribute to the presence or absence of the species by utilizing a single-season, single-species occupancy modeling framework.

Under the guidance of Dr. Ivana Mali, Mahan conducted surveys across 32 sites on the Pecos River during the summer months of 2020 and 2021. Each site was visited for three survey occasions within the summer season. At each site, 45 hoopnet traps were placed in the water for 48 hours at a time. Each turtle captured was measured and marked. For each site, the team recorded water quality parameters and river characteristics predicted to affect the presence or absence of P. gorzugi. Water quality parameters included pH, conductivity, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. River characteristics included width, depth, vegetation, and evidence of anthropogenic activity (fishing, trash, agriculture, etc.). Currently, Mahan is utilizing a single-season, single-species occupancy model, which will elaborate on which conditions best explain the occupancy and detection probabilities for the species.

This project aims to shed light on the current distribution of P. gorzugi on the Pecos River. The results obtained from this study could potentially inform the decision-making process for the species and Pecos River water management. According to Mahan, this research is significant because “turtles are important parts of their ecosystems and evolutionary history in general, yet they are amongst the most threatened groups of vertebrates. There is alarmingly little research done on many freshwater turtle species, especially studies conducted that estimate factors contributing to their occurrence and detection. Statistical techniques such as occupancy modeling can aid in pinpointing how site-specific characteristics of water quality, surrounding habitats, and river vegetation, etc., may alter the presence or absence of freshwater turtle species.” Mahan has presented her work at The Wildlife Society Annual Conference and the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

Originally from Arizona, Mahan plans to graduate with a Master of Science in Biology in 2022 from ENMU. Mahan obtained her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from ENMU where she began to work with Dr. Mali on P. gorzugi research. After graduation Mahan plans to continue her work studying freshwater turtles and their role in their respective ecosystems by attending Texas State University to work towards a PhD in Aquatic Resources and Integrated Biology.

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eNews November 2021

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to spotlight Greg Torell, an assistant professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2019. Torell is currently teaching Introduction to Regional Economic Development for the Doctorate of Economic Development program, and in the spring semester he will teach an undergraduate course in case studies, an MS  course in production economics, and Microeconomics II for the doctoral students in the Doctorate of Economic Development program. He is mentoring a PhD Water Science and Management student (Chibuzo Chilaka) and an Agricultural Economics MS student (Isaac Appiah). According to Torell, one of his most important roles as an instructor is to “lift up students, give them confidence in their abilities, and help them understand their place in the world.” Due to the collaborative nature of the work within his department, he is able to spend quality time with his students, understand their needs, and become a bigger part of their lives. He feels this is unique to working in such a close-knit department; Torell appreciates the time he is able to dedicate to the needs of his students.

Torell’s main research interests center around different aspects of economics, including rangeland, resource and environment, water, energy, and applied economics. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) are collaborating on a project titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets (SWIM). This research effort will focus on creating more advanced and robust data-driven information systems for stakeholders and other decision-makers by improving how information is shared. This will improve the accuracy of water-based judgments, measurements, and evaluations leading to more secure, sustainable surface and groundwater use. Torell is looking forward to being a part of SWIM, and believes the team has developed innovative methods for incorporating stakeholder input into their current modeling efforts. He states that “this has always been a challenge, because it’s difficult to have a replicable method for incorporating stakeholder input.” Still, he is confident the method developed by his team will push this area of science forward. Further information will be provided as the SWIM project matures.

In addition to the NM WRRI project, he is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) climate hub researchers on a USDA Coordinated Agricultural Project focusing on Raramuri Criollo Cattle, and how they fare under climate change conditions in the arid/semi-arid southwest compared to English breeds of cattle. Torell and his team are also investigating cattle supply chains in the telecoupled rangeland-Ogallala aquifer system, and how cattle genetics and grass finishing could be having an impact.

Over the course of his career, Torell has collaborated with numerous researchers to co-author several publications. His latest study titled, Assessing the Impact of Exceptional Drought on Emissions and Electricity Generation: The Case of Texas will be published in 2022 in The Energy Journal.. This study investigates how power plants in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power grid respond to drought and how drought impacts power plant greenhouse gas emissions. According to Torell, it was discovered that the ERCOT system uses a large number of natural-gas-fired power plants instead of large coal plants, which leads to the decline of greenhouse gas emissions in drought conditions. To read more about this study, please click here.

Torell has presented his research at conferences both domestically and internationally, with his most recent presentation taking place at the American Water Resources Association International Conference held in Beijing, China (2019). Torell graduated with two BA degrees, Economics and Foreign Languages (German), and an MS in Agricultural Economics from NMSU. He achieved a PhD in Economics from the University of Wyoming (UW) in 2016.

Torell has served his community and university by being an active member in several societies and outreach efforts. He is the Awards and Acknowledgment Committee Chair, Board Member of the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, and a Merit Reviewer for the National Science Foundation Solar Energy Technologies Office, among many other appointments. Torell has received awards from UW for his exceptional work, including the Attilio and Hedy Bedont Outstanding College of Business Graduate Student Award and the Department of Economics and Finance Best Graduate Student Teaching Award.

As both a researcher and a professor, Torell states that one of his primary goals is to be useful in solving natural resource and environmental issues by assisting others with his research findings and outcomes. He would also like to create new courses that enrich the lives of his students, and provide them with skills they can call upon as they advance their careers. Regarding future work, Torell shared that he and other researchers across the western U.S. are actively seeking funding to explore connections between the sage grouse habitat, cattle ranchers who rely on that habitat for their livelihoods, and ranching community economic health. He believes there are many questions about whether the economic health of communities that rely on rangeland and native animal and plant species can coexist together, particularly with changing climates and the globalization of markets. There are “always fascinating questions within the agricultural field, because all of [the] questions lie at the intersection of the hard sciences and the humanities…,” Torell affirms. “Farmers manage and live off natural resources that are governed by natural processes, and since everyone has to eat, this field of study will always be critical to our existence.”

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eNews November 2021

UNM Law Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Research Grant for a Comparative Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins

UNM Law Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Research Grant for a Comparative Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Egypt, like New Mexico, is in a precarious situation. Roughly 97 percent of Egypt’s irrigation and drinking water comes from the Nile River1, which means any upriver changes to water quantity and timing caused by the recently completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, future water control by Sudan, and/or climate change could ignite a multi-state crisis. Stephen D. Earsom and his faculty sponsor, Adrian Oglesby of The Utton Transboundary Resources Center and University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law, believe this situation could inform future management of the Rio Grande Basin in the decades to come.

Earsom, a graduate student working toward his Juris Doctor at the UNM School of Law, has been awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for a project titled, A Comparative Legal and Policy Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins. This project addresses the question: How resilient are existing transboundary compacts between the U.S. and Mexico, and between Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and tribal sovereigns? The Nile and the Rio Grande both begin in temperate, mountainous areas and flow into arid regions where water is scarce. According to Earsom, an even more important similarity is that both basins involve multiple sovereigns, legal regimes, and social norms, all of which can form the basis of conflict.

The goal of this project is to look through the dual lenses of and climate change and New Mexico’s current legal landscape to determine how a situation similar to that in the Nile Basin could arise in the Rio Grande Basin and, if the potential exists, how to minimize risk. The project includes three objectives: (1) summarize and compare international, national, and state water laws for the Nile and the Rio Grande watersheds, (2) analyze available conflict resolution tools such as court systems and tribunals for their perceived efficacy and resilience, (3) identify weaknesses in the existing legal systems and agreements, and analyze the implications for New Mexico water stakeholders.

According to Earsom, studying the Nile situation will benefit Rio Grande policymakers, “New Mexico needs to have a resilient and forward-thinking policy and legal basis to be able to resolve the many existing and future legal issues that will arise due to the effects of climate change.” Earsom expects the results of the project may uncover Nile Basin legal or policy errors, vulnerabilities, and missed opportunities that Rio Grande policymakers may wish to learn from and avoid. Alternatively, best practices may be discovered on the Nile that could be successfully employed on the Rio Grande to reduce conflict. Earsom will publish and present the findings of this study to inform policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. Perceived vulnerabilities identified in the study will lead to recommendations for how to resolve the issues, ideally using existing legal and scientific tools and methodologies. If and where necessary, legal or policy shifts will be recommended. Earsom believes the results will be of value for policymakers, planners, and others interested in the present and future availability of water in New Mexico and the Rio Grande Basin.

Earsom presented a poster on this project at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference. Earsom, originally from Oklahoma, has a BS in Petroleum Engineering and an MS in Biology. After graduation, Earsom plans on leveraging his engineering, ecology, and policy experience, in addition to his law degree, to provide holistic water resources legal counsel.

Reference:

1https://phys.org/news/2019-12-egypt-ethiopia-nile.html.  Accessed 14 April 2021.

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eNews November 2021

NM WRRI Receives Funding to Investigate Improvements to Agricultural and Environmental Water Resilience

NM WRRI Receives Funding to Investigate Improvements to Agricultural and Environmental Water Resilience

By Robert Sabie, Jr., Research Scientist, Assc.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute is partnering with a transdisciplinary team of experts to secure a climate-resilient water future. NM WRRI is part of a winning proposal team for a new USDA Sustainable Agricultural Systems project titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets. The project brings together stakeholders, educators, and scientists to find solutions for the changing water future of the western United States with the goal of enabling innovative water management strategies that produce thriving agriculture, healthy ecosystems and community resilience. The project research team is led by UC Merced and includes researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, New Mexico State University, Utah State University, the Public Policy Institute of California, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub. Researchers will focus on three testbeds that exemplify agriculture in water-limited regions (Mesilla Valley, New Mexico; Cache Valley, Utah; and San Joaquin Valley, California).

The specific project goal is aimed at using an integrated framework of multiscale measurements and data-driven management decisions for enabling water trading. Each study site will use emerging technology and methods to improve the accuracy of localized measurements and examine the measured long-term impacts of crop choices, managed aquifer recharge, and water banking. These measurements are needed to make management decisions, each having different effects on the local and regional resiliency to climate change. Evaluation of measurements and management decisions at the farm and district scales will lead to an understanding of how differing institutional characteristics affect the viability of water markets as a strategy for climate resilience for agriculture and ecosystems.

New Mexico State University received $1.6 million of the $10 million total project award that will help support two post-doctoral researchers, seven graduate research assistants, and seven faculty and staff researchers. NMSU has a strong group of multidisciplinary team members who are integrated with researchers from the other institutions into four main project research areas: management, measurement, markets, and climate resiliency. NMSU’s team is led by NM WRRI director Dr. Sam Fernald, who will also lead the groundwater recharge modeling in the Mesilla Valley as part of the water management research team. Robert Sabie, NM WRRI research scientist, will manage the NMSU project deliverables and process remote sensing imagery for estimating evapotranspiration as part of the measurement research team. Also, part of the measurement team, Dr. Salim Bawazir, associate professor in Civil Engineering, will oversee ground measurement instrumentation (evapotranspiration, soil moisture, groundwater levels, etc.). Dr. Greg Torell, assistant professor in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, will examine the key determinants of market benefits and their distributions as part of the water markets team. Dr. Caiti Steele, coordinator at the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, is collaborating with NM WRRI by examining climate change and drought resilience through water balance budgets and peer-to-peer learning networks as part of the climate resiliency team.

Recognizing that extension and education play a critical role in developing successful research outcomes, the project harnesses the expertise of stakeholders through each universities’ extension network. The project also develops K-12 educational games for computational thinking and decision-making in the context of agricultural water management. Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, assistant department head in Media Productions, will develop water and agriculture science and interactive management games. Dr. Richard Heerema, extension pecan specialist, will lead the NMSU extension and outreach efforts and will work closely with stakeholders to co-produce useful information for decision-makers.

For New Mexico, this project will help chart directions for a sustainable agricultural future within the irrigated river basins utilizing the collective knowledge of a world-class team of scientists from different southwestern states. In the Mesilla Valley of the Lower Rio Grande, this project provides synergy for several ongoing NM WRRI-led projects. The New Mexico Statewide Dynamic Statewide Water Budget has several offshoot models that explore the localized interactions of the water budget and how different management decisions impact the water budget. The NM WRRI efforts for measurements will build on current evapotranspiration remote sensing work performed under the USDA AFRI CAP project, Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande Basin. These remote sensing techniques and field measurements will be used to improve the accuracy of regional evapotranspiration models.

The new project started in September of this year and will be completed by August 2026.

For additional information on the New Mexico-based research, contact Robert Sabie at rpsabie@nmsu.edu or Sam Fernald at afernald@nmsu.edu. For additional information on the larger project, consult securewaterfuture.net or contact Program Coordinator Sarah Naumes at snaumes@ucmerced.edu.

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eNews October 2021

Award Funded by the National Science Foundation for Transboundary Groundwater Resiliency Research

Award Funded by the National Science Foundation for Transboundary Groundwater Resiliency Research

By Ashley Atkins, NM WRRI Research Scientist

A team of researchers at the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a new, international network of networks that connects hydrology, social science, data science, and systems science networks to establish a novel transboundary groundwater resiliency research (TGRR) approach. The network will provide leadership, volunteer, and engagement opportunities for all its members, especially students and early-career researchers.

The virtual Kickoff Event for the TGRR Network will take place on November 16, 2021, from 9:00-10:00 AM MT. Click here to register for the Kickoff. An in-person TGRR Networking Event will take place in Glasgow from 15:00-17:00 local time on November 3, 2021, during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Click here to learn more about TGRR. You can find more information about all past and upcoming TGRR events here.

Unprecedented transboundary groundwater depletion is a critical issue facing regions around the world, including U.S.-Mexico border communities. Understanding why transboundary groundwater depletion occurs and how it can be changed within these complex and interconnected systems is key to reversing or avoiding the depletion of these important resources. The TGRR Network remains rooted in the idea that harnessing advances in data science and systems science can help answer these questions in ways that meet the diverse needs and priorities of stakeholders. Objectives of the project are to: 1) catalyze transboundary groundwater resilience research to address groundwater scarcity and its natural and societal impacts, 2) identify the capabilities of the convergence approach to determine key questions and fill critical gaps in knowledge and resources, and 3) support the development of students and early-career researchers who will lead the next generation to collaboratively integrate water, data, and systems science to address transboundary groundwater scarcity.

A panel introduced the TGRR Network on September 28, 2021, at the virtual Two Nations One Water 2021: Binational Water Conference for Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Texas. Access the presentations here and a recording of the panel session here. Visit the TGRR website to learn more about the network, register to join the network, signup for upcoming events, and review resources from past events. All are welcome to join the network.

The TGRR Network is funded by the NSF’s Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations program. The TGRR network prioritizes, in line with AccelNet’s goals, both accelerating the process of scientific discovery for transboundary groundwater research and preparing the next generation of researchers that will lead the future of this international work. Principal Investigator (PI) Sam Fernald and Co-PIs Saeed Langarudi and Ashley Atkins of NM WRRI and Co-PIs Christine Kirkpatrick and Ilya Zaslavsky of SDSC lead the project, which runs from October 2021 through September 2023.

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eNews October 2021

Meet the Researcher, Laura Crossey, Distinguished Professor, The University of New Mexico

Meet the Researcher, Laura Crossey, Distinguished Professor, University of New Mexico

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Laura Crossey, a Distinguished Professor at the University of New Mexico (UNM) for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has been teaching for 35 years, and researches low-temperature geochemistry with application to hydrochemistry, geomicrobiology, and sedimentary diagenesis. Crossey feels her role as a geoscientist has several intertwining aspects that must be appropriately balanced. These aspects include performing research to publish peer-reviewed papers on topics concerning her specialty areas and teaching/mentoring students. She has successfully mentored over 37 students to degree completion and is currently advising two PhD, two MS, and two BS student researchers. Crossey thoroughly enjoys working with college students of any grade level and finds fulfillment in her teaching opportunities.

One of her graduate students, Naomi Delay, was recently awarded a New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) Student Water Research Grant for her project, titled Hydrogeochemical Analysis of Springs in the Cibola National Forest: Implications for Springs/Wetlands Sustainability & Geochemical Response to Forest Fire. The project will focus on the impacts of wildfire on local hydrology and understand the sustainability and hydrogeological framework of arid-land springs. Crossey remarks that “the WRRI student grant opportunity is truly one of the most powerful programs for graduate students working on water-related topics in the state,” and that “several [of her] former graduate students who received support through the WRRI grant process gained valuable experience and have since gone on to be faculty members themselves in other locations (e.g., Dennis Newell, now at Utah State University; Matthew Kirk, currently at Kansas State University; and Jon Golla, who is completing his PhD at the University of Illinois).”

Crossey earned a BA from Colorado College, an MS from Washington University in St. Louis, and a PhD degree in Geology from the University of Wyoming. Her PhD dissertation was titled The Origin and Role of Water-soluble Organic Compounds in Clastic Diagenetic Systems, which she completed under the advisement of Dr. Ronald C. Surdam. According to Crossey, she considers herself very fortunate to have such strong research interests in low-temperature geochemistry with application to water quality, paleohydrology, geothermal systems, microbial ecology, and planetary geology. One of her more recent projects concerned geothermal systems in Tibet, and she states that this was “fascinating as it allowed [her] to travel to this intriguing area of the world and visit with cultural communities who live on the land in close proximity to such amazing geothermal features.” During her visit, she was able to demonstrate how noble gases dissolved in fluids carry traces of tectonic structures that can help reveal more about hazardous plate tectonic boundaries.

Another project Crossey is working on involves her current graduate students and is related to understanding the groundwater systems of the Grand Canyon region. She mentions that spending time in such an incredible area like the Grand Canyon National Park is just one of the benefits of the important work she is conducting. The location of her research “provides the opportunity to interact with tribal communities who have strong interests in the sustainable flow of Grand Canyon springs in the face of increasing groundwater use across the Colorado Plateau, and the chance to work with Grand Canyon National Park staff at better documenting Grand Canyon resources and science communication on geoscience and groundwater topics to the general public.”

Crossey’s research has been funded numerous times throughout her career by the National Science Foundation, the National Park Service, and the US Forest Service. She has been awarded several prestigious honors, which include her current title as a Distinguished Professor since August 2021, fellow recognition for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2020), and was presented the Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer award by the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America (2019). Crossey also contributes to a variety of different types of service tasks ranging from journal editorial assignments and technical reviews, to extensive local university efforts and community outreach associations with local sports teams and regional science fairs.

Crossey has authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications (four articles published in 2021). She also has approximately 52 other writing publications, including works associated with memoirs, proceedings, guidebooks, and various reports. She is affiliated with several professional organizations, including being an external advisory board member for the Global Water Institute located at the Ohio State University, institutional coordinator for the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation, and a member of the Association of Women Geoscientists since 1989. Crossey has attended over 150 conferences, symposiums, and seminars as a guest lecturer and presenter, and has additionally been an invited presenter at several NM WRRI conferences and frequently works with other professional water organizations across the state.

Crossey aspires to continue publishing on groundwater geochemistry and expand into applications of hydrology and diagenesis to understand Mars’ environment. She is pleased to share that she is part of the collaborative team working on the Chemistry and Camera tool (ChemCam), which provides data sets used to identify the specific composition of rocks and soils produced by the Mars rover, “Curiosity.” Crossey also plans to continue encouraging her students to participate in active projects taking place in the Valles Caldera National Preserve and in the Sandia Mountains. As a word of inspiration to anyone considering joining the water research field, she expresses that “water availability and quality is an ever-increasing challenge in the American Southwest, and the opportunity to do fun work in the Land of Enchantment that has pressing societal relevance is a very exciting way to complete a graduate degree and prepare for a career in this area.”

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eNews October 2021

NMSU Student Awarded Research Grant to Study Sequential Isotopic Actinides in Water

NMSU Student Awarded Research Grant to Study Sequential Isotopic Actinides in Water

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Senior Student Program Coordinator

NM WRRI has awarded Rong He, a PhD student at New Mexico State University (NMSU), a Student Water Research Grant to work on a project entitled Sequential Isotopic Determination of Actinides (Plutonium, Americium, and Uranium) in Water. This project will develop a rapid and accurate method for determining the sequential separation of plutonium (Pu), americium (Am), and uranium (U) in water samples and explore the influence of interfering metal ions on the separation and determination of Pu, Am, and U.

Under the guidance of her Faculty Advisor, Dr. Meng Zhou, drinking water and surface water samples will be collected from locations in Las Cruces and Carlsbad, New Mexico. The samples will be spiked with different amounts of interfering metal ions like sodium, potassium, and magnesium for the interference experiments. The concentrations of the metal ions will be determined by Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry (ICP/MS) at NMSU. In the separation experiments, the separation of Pu from Am and U will be carried out using Anion exchange and TEVA (Tetra Valents Actinides) chromatography columns. TRU and UTEVA (Uranium and Tetra Valents Actinides) chromatography columns will be applied to separate U and Am. The separation and radioactivity determination of actinides will be conducted at the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC). The difference in actinide concentrations in water samples from Las Cruces (far from the WIPP site) and Carlsbad (near the WIPP site) will help monitor the source of actinide contamination, the quality of drinking water, and the quality surface water.

According to Rong He, the accurate determination and fast response of actinides are essential for environmental monitoring and radiation protection. This project aims to help to develop a radioactivity analysis method with fast response and accurate results in the radioactivity determination of Pu, Am, and U in water samples. According to Rong He, this research is significant because the data obtained from this study can help establish a baseline for radioactivity levels in water resources around the WIPP site. The findings from this project will serve as preliminary results for the future collaboration between NMSU and CEMRC.

Rong He presented this research at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference. Originally from China, Rong He has a master’s degree in Engineering from Shanghai University of Engineering Science and plans to graduate in 2023 with a PhD from the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering at NMSU. After graduation, Rong He would like to be a Postdoctoral Fellow at a university or research institution.

*Fritsch, C. L. P. Chemical toxicity of some actinides and lanthanides towards alveolar macrophages: an in vitro study. International journal of radiation biology, 1999, 75, 1459-1471.

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eNews September eNews 2021

ENMU Student Awarded Research Grant to Study Rio Grande Cooter Nesting

ENMU Student Awarded Research Grant to Study Rio Grande Cooter Nesting

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Senior Student Program Coordinator

The Pecos River originates in the mountains of northern New Mexico and runs 926 miles through the Chihuahuan Desert before flowing into the Rio Grande on Texas’ southern border. The Pecos River represents a major water resource and habitat for wildlife throughout Texas and New Mexico. This wildlife includes numerous species in diverse aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats. Anthropogenic alterations to the Pecos River, like dam construction and channelization, have contributed to altered flow regimes and increased salinity. As conditions across the watershed have changed, the biological diversity of the Pecos River has decreased.

One species of particular concern is a freshwater turtle called the Rio Grande cooter. Habitat degradation due to river flow alterations (e.g., dam construction, oil and gas extraction, etc.) can be a major threat to this species’ survival. The Rio Grande cooter’s status is currently being reviewed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for potential federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. Still, there is a need for more research about this turtle species in the United States and New Mexico. The Black River, a tributary of the Pecos River in Eddy County, New Mexico, is one of the only systems where the Rio Grande cooter is found in relatively high numbers; however, there have been no reports on nesting behavior to date and no reports of Rio Grande cooter nests being found on the Black River. This illustrates a gap in knowledge about nest site selection and hatching success for this species.

To fill this knowledge gap, NM WRRI awarded Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) masters student, Frank Rodriguez, a Student Water Research Grant to study the nesting ecology of this elusive species. Under the guidance of his Faculty Advisor, Dr. Ivana Mali, Rodriguez will be working on a project entitled, Nesting ecology of the Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi) on the Black River, New Mexico. The objectives of this project are to conduct pedestrian surveys in search of Rio Grande cooter nesting females, set fresh nests on the Black River, and monitor the nests via game cameras to assess successful hatching rates and possible predation levels. In addition to pedestrian surveys, hoop-net trap surveys, and installing cameras, GPS transmitters will be attached to gravid females to gain more information about nesting behavior.

According to Rodriguez, freshwater turtles represent important bio-indicators of their respective ecosystems and evidence of reproduction in the Rio Grande cooter populations could be an indicator of riverine system health. Therefore, understanding the nesting ecology of the Rio Grande cooter is beneficial to managing the species and New Mexico’s water resources. According to Rodriguez, this project is significant because it will assess the relationship between Rio Grande cooter nesting success and habitat characteristics like river width, depth, water conductivity, and riparian land-use practices. If the water conditions and riparian vegetation are affecting Rio Grande cooter reproduction and nesting site selection, this study can inform water management practices on the Black River to ensure the survival of this species in one of its last strongholds.

Originally from Miami, Rodriguez received his undergraduate degree from Southern Oregon University, where he majored in Biology with an emphasis in Evolutionary Biology. He is planning to graduate from ENMU in May 2023 with a Master of Science in Biology degree. After graduation, Rodriguez plans to enroll in a doctoral program in wildlife biology or another relevant branch of biology and hopes to be directly involved in the conservation and management of endangered and threatened wildlife. Rodriguez plans to present his research at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.