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eNews March 2020

Meet the Researcher Jesse Filbrun, Assistant Professor, Eastern New Mexico University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for meet the researcher, we are profiling Jesse Filbrun, who is currently a third-year, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Biology at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) in Portales, New Mexico. He is the instructor of numerous courses including Fisheries Management and Conservation, Ichthyology, and the Principles of Biology: Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution. Filbrun is currently mentoring two graduate students and two undergraduate students at ENMU, and has supervised ten other students over the course of his career. While traditional instruction in the classroom can be rewarding, Filbrun believes most students fully grasp how the process of science works through hands-on experiences in the field and lab.

Jesse received his BS in Biology with university honors from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 2008. His thesis was entitled, Quantifying Microcystis spp. in Western Lake Erie and Maumee Bay using Gravimetric Separation and Microscopy, 2002–2006, and his research advisor was Dr. Thomas Bridgeman. In 2013, Jesse earned his PhD in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology from The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. His dissertation was under the guidance of Drs. David Culver and Stuart Ludsin, and was entitled, An ecological approach to feed management in fish rearing ponds.

Filbrun began his research career in 2008 as a graduate research associate and teaching assistant for the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at OSU. After graduating with his PhD, Jesse transferred to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where he became a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Coastal Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory from 2013 to 2014. He maintains services at USM as a summer field program instructor for the Division of Coastal Sciences. Between 2014 and 2017, Filbrun was an Assistant Professor of Biology at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas, where he also acted as the department chair for one year. He has been in his current position at ENMU since 2017.

Filbrun has been a part of twenty-four specialized presentations, with his most recent lecture focusing on the Effects of human disturbance on the early life stages of fishes. He is a proactive member in six professional organizations related to American Fisheries Societies, and is actively involved in several university and departmental committees such as ENMU’s internal grants and research magazine committees, and is the Chair of the Biology Department’s scholarship committee. He serves his community by speaking to elementary students during invited classroom visits, judging regional and local science fairs, and by participating in essential outreach activities.

Currently, Filbrun is researching New Mexico’s aquatic ecosystems and the impact climate change and human disturbance has on native fishes that inhabit the river systems. Due to bony fishes having high mortality rates during their early life stages, Jesse has dedicated a large portion of his research to egg and larval production in order to study the future impacts this can have on adult population sizes. According to Filbrun, he has established a long-term drifting fish egg and larvae survey in the Pecos River near Fort Sumner in De Baca and Guadalupe counties. The short-term goal of the survey is to establish a baseline of seasonal spawning activities by native and nonnative fishes relative to environmental variation, and the long-term goal is to monitor climate impacts on regional fish assemblages. To date, he has collected over 3,500 larvae, and hundreds of eggs for his research.

Filbrun’s latest project entitled, Investigating the effects of reservoir water releases on spawning activities of fishes in the Pecos River, has been funded through the Research Grant between US Geological Survey and New Mexico State University, 104B State Water Resources Research Institute Program. Filbrun wishes to express his excitement that his proposal was selected to receive funding, and when asked for further project details, he stated, “there is limited information regarding the timing of reproductive events by native and nonnative fishes in the Pecos River relative to environmental conditions. Thus, water managers are uninformed regarding potential impacts of the timing and magnitude of reservoir water releases on fish assemblages.” He asserts that his study will fill critical knowledge gaps by quantifying adult spawning movements, drifting egg and larval densities, and juvenile survival relative to environmental variation and reservoir water releases. Filbrun ultimately hopes his research will be considered by water managers to select dates and magnitudes of water releases to inflict minimal impacts on reproductive effort of native fishes. He anticipates field work for this project will commence in April through September when fishes actively spawn in the river. Filbrun is additionally supported in his complementary activities in the Pecos River by the Western Division and Arizona/New Mexico Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and by internal faculty grants awarded by ENMU. His project will span from March 2020 through February 2021.

Throughout his career, Jesse has contributed to thirteen publications with eight being refereed. His most recent work, Quantifying the contribution of zooplankton to channel catfish and hybrid catfish growth in nursery ponds, was published last year in Aquaculture. Filbrun and colleagues published four datasets in 2016 on abundance estimates and morphometric measurements of fish larvae in the northern Gulf of Mexico. He has peer-reviewed articles for the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.

Filbrun’s long-term research goals are to make meaningful contributions to the understanding of 1) the role of early life processes in fisheries management, and 2) the resilience of aquatic and marine ecosystems to human disturbances. His main service goals are to contribute training to the next generation of fisheries scientists and managers through instruction in the classroom, professional mentorship, and hands-on training in the field and lab. When asked about upcoming accomplishments, Filbrun stated, “My favorite aspects of my job are watching my students develop as scientists and succeed in their professional careers. I love spending time mentoring students who are excited about science and eager to learn. At the end of my career, I imagine I will measure my success according to my students’ accomplishments, and not by the number of my publications or grant awards.”