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ASU ARCS Scholar Jessica Corman Studies Ecosystem Health of a Restored Mexican Wetland

Posted on Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thank you again for your 2012-2013 support of my dissertation research! See my photo below in Poza Azules, Cuatro Ciénegas, México. During the summer, we (grad student Jorge Ramos and Dr. Zarraz Lee, pictured, and myself) often worked directly with land managers, like Roger Villalobos from ProNatura, to show them our research and see how we could expand our studies to help them. Currently, Jorge and I are helping Roger understand the ecosystem health of a restored wetland on ProNatura property.

My research has been going very well since I presented my poster in the spring. I was able to travel twice to my field site in México, for two months this summer and another two weeks earlier this month. During this time, I conducted several experiments to test the main hypothesis of my dissertation, that microbes manipulate calcium carbonate deposition to access nutrients needed for growth. I also developed an experiment that takes advantage of isotopic signatures to trace nutrient flows in the microbial communities. I will be spending much of this winter processing these samples and look forward to sharing the results with you, soon!

I am also excited to report that I have been able to expand the field studies to include a series of streams in southern Arizona, in the Huachucua Mountains. These three streams are similar to one another in all but one regard: they exhibit different rates of travertine formation. Previously, I was just using a comparison of this process in two streams, one in which calcium carbonate deposition is physicochemically-dominated (Fossil Creek, AZ) and one in which it is biologically-mediated (Río Mesquites, México). Now, I am now able to expand my work from these endpoints to include a natural gradient of physicochemically- to biologically-driven travertine deposition. By using this continuum, I am able to test whether travertine affects nutrient cycling in a linear or non-linear manner – this means more informative data for the land managers that are tasked to conserve these beautiful systems in face of climate change and increased human activity.

Support from the ARCS Foundation has been fundamental in giving me the freedom to expand the sope and impact of my research. The funds mean that I have the flexibiiity to visit more and more frequently field sites in order to do better research.  The extra visits have also been tremendous in building a relationship with the local managers of my field sites, particularly in Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico, where it is usually cost prohibitive for me to travel more than once per year.  With these collaborations, I know that my research is benfitting the community and building trust btween scientists and local citizens.

Sincerely,

Jessica Corman
ARCS Might Scholar 2011-2014