Photo: Nate Barrus
One of the most striking features of Wyoming’s aquatic landscape is the transition from cold, Rocky Mountain headwater streams to warm, meandering Great Plains streams. In 2015, when I was a PhD student at the University of Wyoming, the BI helped to fund my dissertation research that looked at how stream food webs change as you move downstream along that iconic elevational gradient.
BI funding allowed me to incorporate a stable isotope approach into my research, through which I demonstrated how habitat conditions and species richness (biodiversity) interact to produce a fundamental reshaping of aquatic food webs along upstream-downstream gradients. This new knowledge of food web change along stream gradients will help managers and conservation practitioners anticipate how changes to the environment will influence local food webs and associated biodiversity. So not only did BI funding allow me to take a new and exciting direction with my research (and in turn add a new tool to my scientific toolbox), it also directly led to new knowledge about Wyoming’s biodiversity, which will help ensure its long-term persistence.
One key part of being awarded BI funding is the requirement to communicate our science with the people of Wyoming—to make our science actionable and to make it matter outside of the Ivory Tower. But such opportunities are often difficult to do by oneself. So I thoroughly appreciate all the opportunities the BI provided me for sharing my science in communities across the state through Science Cafes and other outreach events like the Wyoming BioBlitz and Wyoming Naturalist Program.
In fact, the push to make science matter to those outside of the university, as well as the training I received from BI staff on outreach and public engagement, have been strong forces in my career path. They have motivated me to conduct collaborative science that leads to actionable solutions for real-world problems, which is what I sought to do after defending my PhD and graduating in 2020 as a Wisconsin Science-Policy Postdoctoral Fellow with UW-Madison and the Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Bureau. In this position I worked directly with agency mangers, biologists, and local stakeholders on a project trying to untangle the effects of climate change and groundwater pumping on stream trout in the Upper Midwest.
Now, in my new role as a postdoc in the Center for Limnology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I will be leading a large Lake Michigan synthesis project where we will test predictions from the landscape theory of food-web architecture. So, I’ll be coming around full circle, and making use of the stable isotope and food web analysis tools the BI ensured that I developed early in my career as a BI award recipient.
Congratulations to the BI for celebrating its 10th Anniversary. Here is to 10 more great years.
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Photo: Rose Curtis