MEET THE LAB

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Dr. Seth D. Newsome

Associate Professor of Biology and Associate Director UNM Center for Stable Isotopes
My research has three overarching foci. First, I quantify niche breadth at multiple levels of biological organization –– individuals to communities –– to better understand the energetic basis of community assembly and structure. Second, I use controlled feeding experiments in which I vary the chemical composition and concentrations of dietary macromolecules to understand how animals process protein, lipids, and carbohydrates. This enables me to trace energy flow within organism at the molecular level, which provides insights into which exogenous and endogenous resources are used to maintain protein homeostasis. Third, I often adopt a deep temporal perspective that compares species interactions in modern and ancient ecosystems to provide unique data on the full range of animal behavioral and ecological flexibility; such information is important for designing effective long-term management and conservation strategies.

[email protected]

Lab Members

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Dr. Christy Mancuso

Postdoc
My research interests are focused broadly around nutrition and travel history reconstruction in both animal and human systems. My Ph.D. research at the University of Utah focused on using stable isotope biomarkers in keratin tissues to recreate diet and travel histories to examine questions related to forensic sciences, adolescent diets, and the impact of public policies on school lunch programs. For my postdoc, I am interested in expanding my these research interests in these areas as an NIH ASERT-IRACDA Fellow through the use of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen isotope analysis of individual amino acids. Specifically, my postdoc work will focus on examining the role of the gut microbiome in amino acid synthesis and refining assessment of geographic region of origin and animal movement in keratinous tissues.

[email protected]
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Dr. Philip J. Manlick

Postdoc
As an ecologist I am broadly interested in the causes and consequences of biotic interactions, with a focus on trophic interactions and food web dynamics. In particular, my research aims to understand how individual foraging decisions scale up to impact populations, communities, and ecosystem processes. To answer these questions, I integrate stable isotope analyses with spatial and demographic models to assess biotic interactions across species and scales. I am currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at UNM using amino acid isotope analysis of museum specimens to quantify the integration of green and brown food webs by terrestrial consumers. In addition, I am studying the foraging and population dynamics of desert rodents at the Sevilleta LTER, and I am assisting in the development of the Isobank data repository.

[email protected]
Website: pmanlick.weebly.com
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Dr. Geraldine Busquets Vass

Postdoc
I am interested in understanding the foraging ecology and reproductive physiology of marine megafauna by using intrinsic biomarkers in animal tissues and the biogeochemistry of marine ecosystems. During my Ph.D. at CICIMAR-IPN (La Paz, Mexico), I studied the foraging ecology, movement patterns, and physiology of blue whales using stable isotope analysis in metabolically active (skin) and inert (baleen) tissues. My postdoctoral research is sponsored by CONACYT and will characterize the foraging ecophysiology and migratory patterns of blue, gray, fin, and humpback whales in the northeast Pacific Ocean using bulk tissue and amino acid isotope analysis of baleen plates. The results of this study will enable us to assess the vulnerability of baleen whales to environmental change that we anticipate will inform species-specific management plans.

[email protected]
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Dr. Nico Lubcker

Postdoc
My research combines multidisciplinary approaches to study various aspects of organismal ecophysiology. During my Ph.D. at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, I developed intrinsic biomarkers of dietary niche use and nutritional status of individual southern elephant seals. Using stable isotopes and steroid concentrations in keratinous tissues, I advanced the use of minimally invasive approaches to assess the physiological mechanisms that individuals use to cope with prolonged periods of fasting, and to assess the amino acid transfer between mothers and their fetuses during gestation. For my postdoc, I aim to extend my horizons into desert ecosystems and develop new biomarkers to quantify water balance and metabolism, as well as continuing to develop new proxies to assess nutritional stress and capital versus income breeding.

[email protected]
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Alexi C. Besser

Ph.D. Candidate
I am very broadly interested in the connectivity between freshwater aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. My current research focuses on using amino acid isotope analysis to study energy flow from terrestrial floodplain habitats to river food webs. The Middle Rio Grande in central New Mexico is a critical place to study this linkage because it is intensively regulated by dams to control flooding and extract water for municipal and agricultural use, which has decreased the extent and duration of overbank flooding. This has effectively eliminated the link between the terrestrial floodplain and river that is likely essential to aquatic ecosystem function. Characterizing the role of terrestrially-derived energy in the food webs of heavily-regulated rivers will inform management decisions regarding controlled overbank flooding at habitat restoration sites in these systems.

[email protected]
Website: alexibesser.weebly.com
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Zoë T. Rossman

Ph.D. Student
I am interested in how selection pressures in novel environments contribute to individual specialization and resource use. My current research lies at the intersection of urban and isotope ecology, with a focus on carnivores. Understanding how and why animals respond to urbanization is important to understand why certain species are successful in urban environments and which may be negatively impacted. In collaboration with the Urban Coyote Research Project, I combine isotope analysis with field methods to study the ecology of urban coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area. Specifically, I am studying resource and habitat use at multiple ecological levels to understand how urban carnivores partition resources and what circumstances promote and maintain individual diet specialization in these unique ecosystems.

[email protected]
Website: zoerossman.com
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Conner Mertz

Ph.D. Student
I am fascinated by the complexity and elegance of how cells maintain homeostasis, respond to stress and defend themselves against infectious agents. I am particularly interested in the interactions between microbes and their hosts. Since all animals host microorganisms in their gut, I plan to look at the gut microbiome’s impact on host physiology and protein metabolism. My graduate research will integrate two active fields: next-generation genetic analysis and compound-specific stable isotope analysis. This will allow us to describe the community composition of the gut microbiome while also exploring the role microbes play in the synthesis of amino acids used by the host. Host-microbe interactions range from mutualistic to pathogenic, therefore understanding these interactions are integral to our understanding of health and disease.

[email protected]
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Jessica Johnson

M.Sc. Student
I am interested in small mammal community ecology. My research involves understanding the impact of climate change on the small mammal community at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. As the LTER monthly mammal trapping manager, I spend most of my year trapping for small mammals and hope to use the stable isotope data and quantitative magnetic resonance data I collect to help guide our understanding of life history traits of these individual communities. By applying a genus-level analysis to small mammals occurring at the Sevilleta, I will be looking for patterns of diversity and abundance with the use of climate sensitivity functions. By using this multivariate analysis, I hope to better define which specific life history traits of each genera can best explain patterns in individual community response to drought and climate change.

[email protected]
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Nolan Perryman

Ph.D. Student
As a passionate conservationist, I am interested in the effects of climate warming on delicate arctic ecosystems. Arctic warming results in the degradation of ice-rich permafrost, thereby altering energy flow and transforming arctic communities. I aim to quantify how the relative contributions of producer-based “green” and detritus-based “brown” energy change at different trophic levels, as a result of permafrost degradation. To assess these questions, I will use bulk tissue and compound-specific stable isotope analysis of arctic consumers to trace energy flow at different trophic levels. I aim to compare historical collections of small mammals and invertebrates, caught during the early to mid 20th century, to modern arctic consumers to understand how the relative contributions of green and brown energy have changed over a long temporal scale.

[email protected]
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Sophie Farr

Lab Manager
As the newest addition to the Newsome lab, I have enjoyed every opportunity to learn about animal ecology, conduct fieldwork at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and explore the many uses of stable isotope analysis and its broader implications for conservation. Though I have many interests, I have always been intrigued by the interface between wildlife and humans, particularly in harsh arid climates where resources are limited such as the American Southwest or the mountains of central Asia. I would like to study these interactions to find ways to mitigate conflict between large carnivores and agricultural or pastoral communities. Currently, I am helping with a variety of projects in the lab, and have been helping process tissue samples and generate body condition data from monthly small mammal trapping bouts at the Sevilleta NWR.

[email protected]
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Christina Blevins

M.Sc. Student
I enjoy every excuse to be in the field and to explore the local terrain. I crave the chance to jump into any marine ecosystem but spend my time learning the complexities of desert ecology. Collaborating with others in the lab, I am currently studying small mammals at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. I want to quantify the seasonal niche variation of the mammal communities due to annual rainfall and food availability to better understand the shifts in body condition throughout the year. I am also honing my organizational skills by processing the stream of samples that move through the lab. I hope to one day take my newfound knowledge of statistical analysis and chemistry and apply it to ocean ecology to help protect and conserve marine ecosystems. In Fall 2019 I will start a M.Sc. degree at UNM working on blue and gray whales in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

[email protected]

Dr. Emma A. Elliott Smith (Ph.D.): Postdoctoral Associate, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC)

Dr. John P. Whiteman (Postdoc): Assistant Professor, Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA)

Deborah Boro (M.Sc.): Natural Heritage New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)

Laura Pages Barcelo (M.Sc.): Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (Albuquerque, NM)

Dr. Rodrigo Bastos: Postdoctoral Fellow, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Recife, Brazil)

Juliano Coletto: Ph.D. Student, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (Rio Grande, Brazil)

Andre Costa Pereira: Ph.D. Student, Universidade de Brasilia (Brasilia, Brazil)

Dr. Marilyn L. Fogel: Distinguished Professor and EDGE Director, UC Riverside (Riverside)

Michael Fox: Ph.D. Candidate, Scripps Institute of Oceanography (La Jolla)

Sean Hixon: Ph.D. Student, Pennsylvania State University (College Station)

Dr. Rocio Loizaga de Castro: Research Professor, Centro Nacional Patagonico (Puerto Madryn, Argentina)

Dr. Paul L. Koch: Distinguished Professor and Dean, UC Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz)

Sabina Llamazares: Ph.D. Student, Universidad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Nico Lubcker: Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa)

Dr. Karin Maldonado: Research Professor, University of Chile (Santiago, Chile)

Natasha Phillips: Ph.D. Candidate, Queens University (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Dr. Francisca Santana: Postdoc, Universidad de Antofagasta (Antofagasta, Chile)

Dr. Elena Tamburin: Postdoc, CICIMAR (La Paz, Mexico)

Clarissa Teixeira: Ph.D. Student, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Santa Catarina, Brazil)

Dr. Damian G. Vales: Research Professor, Centro Nacional Patagonico (Puerto Madryn, Argentina)

Katie Wedemeyer-Strombel: Ph.D. Candidate, University of Texas El Paso (El Paso)

Hannah Wellman: Ph.D. Candidate, University of Oregon (Eugene)

Dr. Nico deBruyn: Professor, Pretoria University (Pretoria)

Dr. Stanley Gehrt: Professor, Ohio State University (Columbus)

Dr. Gary Graves: Curator, Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.)

Dr. Marilyn L. Fogel: Professor and EDGE Director, UC Riverside (Riverside)

Dr. Chris Harrod: Professor, University of Antofagasta (Antofagasta, Chile)

Dr. Keith A. Hobson: Professor, Western Ontario University (London, Canada)

Dr. Kate Lyons: Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska (Lincoln)

Dr. Karin Maldonado: Professor, Universidade Adolfo Ibañez (Santiago, Chile)

Dr. Craig McClain: Executive Director, Louisiana Marine Consortium (Chauvin)

Dr. Gabriela Nardoto: Professor, Universidade de Brasilia (Brasilia, Brazil)

Dr. Luciana Riccialdelli: Professor, Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas (Ushuaia, Argentina)

Dr. Pablo Sabat: Professor, Universidade de Chile (Santiago, Chile)

Dr. Irene Salinas: Associate Professor, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

Dr. Zachary Sharp: Distinguished Professor, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

Dr. Felisa Smith: Professor, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

Dr. Tom Turner: Professor, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

Dr. Cristina Takacs-Vesbach: Professor, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

Dr. Justin Yeakel: Assistant Professor, University of California Merced (Merced)