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eNews September 2018

Meet the Researcher – Becky Bixby, University of New Mexico

By Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

In 2007, Dr. Becky Bixby joined the University of New Mexico’s Biology Department as a research assistant professor. Becky hails from the Great Lake state of Michigan where she grew up one mile from Lake Michigan. This early exposure to vast freshwater bodies has shaped her interests in all things wet and soggy! Becky is an aquatic ecologist who is inspired by the multi-faceted nature of freshwater ecosystem research in terms of policy and outreach. As a result, Becky also serves as the Associate Director of the interdisciplinary Water Resources Program at UNM, and holds a position as a research associate with both the Museum of Southwestern Biology and New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Becky received a BA in biology from Albion College (Michigan), an MS from the University of Cincinnati studying the formation of lakes in northern Alaska, and a PhD in natural resources from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation focused on microscopic diatom systematics and ecology in high elevation rivers. Becky did post-doctoral work at the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia where her NSF-supported research examined landscape-scale patterns of diatom communities in rain forest streams.

Bixby’s research interests are centered on arid land aquatic ecosystems, working through the lens of community response to disturbance. Her lab work focuses on freshwater aquatic ecology with interests in the response and interactions of biological organisms to natural and human-related disturbances at different spatial and temporal scales. For example, these disturbances may be small-scale hydraulic influences on biofilms in the Rio Grande or more widespread short and long-term effects of wildfire on aquatic community structure and water quality. Becky’s lab is also doing work on springs around New Mexico, documenting algal and invertebrate biodiversity and impacts of anthropogenic disturbance.

Becky has served as the faculty advisor for three student recipients of NM WRRI Student Water Research Grants: 2014 recipient Alex Clark (undergraduate), 2017 recipient Amanda Otieno (graduate), and 2018 recipient Monika Hobbs (graduate). Working with students is a love of Becky’s since she really enjoys the project brainstorming, watching the light bulb come on, and watching her students succeed with hard work and perseverance.