Biologist mentors research students
By Karen Wentworth
A man of many interests, UNM Professor of Biology Cliff Dahm leads three organizations and countless students.
As head of the Hydrogeoecology Research Group, Dahm looks at aquatic ecology, the interaction between stream water and ground water, the way nutrients cycle through the ecosystem, and microbial and chemical processes in volcanic environments.
When asked about his research, he immediately turns the conversation to the good work of his students. Director of the Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training Program, Dahm has mentored 18 master’s and doctoral candidates as part of a multi-year National Science Foundation grant.
“Students research everything from evapotranspiration in the riparian plant community to the fate of nitrate in streams and rivers,” Dahm said.
Dahm also recruits other faculty in biology, chemistry, chemical and nuclear engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and physics, to act as mentors to IGERT students. He says the IGERT program has worked so well here he is ready to apply for another NSF grant.
As president of the North American Benthological Society, he works with 2,000 members around the world disseminating research to promote better understanding of the ecology and biotic communities of streams, rivers and lakes. The members of the society are scientists mainly interested in freshwater biology.
One of Dahm’s current research projects is looking at the impact elk and cattle have on streams in the Valle Grande in northern New Mexico. He is comparing the impact of the animals when they use the same stream area, with the impact when only one species uses the stream, or when neither elk nor cattle use the stream.
Dahm has been with UNM since 1984. His wife, Rhea Graham, is a well-known water expert now working with Sandia Pueblo. Daughter Katherine is attending the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and daughter Kristina trains horses.