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eNews September 2019

ENMU Professor Awarded NM WRRI Faculty Water Research Grant

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Administrative Assistant

Dr. Ivana Mali, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology at Eastern New Mexico University, has recently been awarded a 2019 Faculty Water Research Grant on behalf of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) funded through state appropriations. Dr. Mali will receive funding for this project entitled, Trophic and Dietary Overlap Study between Threatened and Common Riverine turtles in the Southeast New Mexico Using Stable Isotope Analyses.

This opportunity known as “seed money” offers New Mexico university faculty startup funding to perform studies which could provide new insights into water research and allow students to gain necessary field experience. As the project progresses, other funding opportunities may become available and provide substantial support in order to see the project flourish. In Dr. Mali’s study, she hopes to perform necessary research into learning more about a state threatened riverine species known as the Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), which is currently severely understudied due to its limited habitat and the overall unawareness of the species.

According to Dr. Mali, she has been studying the Rio Grande cooter since 2016, and thus far, she and her students have been the only researchers to study this turtle in New Mexico. While her previous studies have provided her with useful information regarding the turtles’ demographics in a tributary of the Pecos River known as the Black River, this upcoming study will address important factors such as diet and trophic level specifics. Mali expects her research to greatly benefit state and federal natural resource managers as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Currently, the USFWS is reviewing the Rio Grande cooter as a possible candidate for federal protection, but due to limited information on such an evasive species, this is proving to be quite difficult. As Dr. Mali’s study progresses, she hopes to aid the USFWS by providing key statistics to help them reach a well-informed decision.

The performance period for Dr. Mali’s project will run from June 18, 2019 to June 17, 2020 with a final report due in the summer of 2020.