Faculty Fanfare: Alex Webster


UNM Assistant Professor of Biology Alex Webster will lead a team of researchers across six universities that will study water quality and quantity in headwater stream networks.


Research for the $2.5 million, two-year award from the Department of Energy’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Program will take place in five headwater stream networks across the continental United States that receive different amounts and timing of precipitation to understand how the current and future climate will impact these dynamics.


“Specifically, we are studying how water quality and quantity is controlled by how stream networks expand and contract with precipitation and drought,” Webster said.


Understanding the role of climate change in water levels, for example, can help water system users prepare for and respond to varying conditions.


Climate change is changing the timing and amount of precipitation and headwater stream networks are at the front line of these changes,” Webster said. “How these changes drive changes to water quality and quantity is critical to understand for our water supply, ecosystem health, and our resilience to climate change.”


At least six graduate students will work at the universities with big data with applications to natural resource management and climate resilience as part of the project, which also involves installing the infrastructure for monitoring water quality and quantity.


Additionally, the award supports five early career faculty who want to understand the impacts of climate change.


“I am excited that we are using this award not only to do this important research, but also to establish an early career support network that will further this research in states like New Mexico that need this type of climate resilience research and investment the most,” Webster said. 


Locations for the work are still being finalized, Webster said, but could include the South Sandy Creek in Alabama, the Richland Creek in Arkansas, the Lamprey River in New Hampshire, the Dog Creek Watershed in Nevada and the Upper Santa Fe River Watershed.


“UNM is the natural place from which to lead this effort thanks to its investment in interdisciplinary climate resilience research,” she said.