NM Delegation Hails Nearly $3 Million to UNM for Research into Effects of Climate Change in the Southwest

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) applauded a nearly $3 million grant to the University of New Mexico (UNM) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research to understand historic climate changes in the arid Southwestern United States, and how the diverse communities in the region responded to shifts in climate and water availability.

The grant will support interdisciplinary research at UNM by investigating existing museum material with new and diverse research methods, including DNA sequencing and high-resolution image analysis. The grant will fund education, training and mentoring programs for a diverse team of researchers across many disciplines, directly supporting 40 degree candidates at the MS and PhD levels and providing learning opportunities for 35 graduate and 40 undergraduate students. Working together, faculty, student, and museum research teams will investigate the interrelated impacts of climate change on humans and natural ecosystems, water dynamics in drylands, and effects of landscape transformation on ecosystem processes.

“While we mobilize our economy and public policy to prevent the worst effects of climate change, this grant will help our state learn from our rich environmental history about how to adapt to the life-altering impacts of a warming planet,” said Udall, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. “New Mexico is on the front lines of the climate crisis, and innovative research projects like this one that draw from the vast knowledge of the people who have called the Southwest home since the beginning of human history and can help us chart a path forward. I will continue to fight for funding for creative research initiatives at institutions like UNM that drive our state’s innovation and foster new opportunities for New Mexico scientists and students.”

“To tackle the climate crisis head on, we need a bold, new generation of researchers and experts,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. “With this funding from the National Science Foundation, the University of New Mexico can strengthen its role in educating, training, and mentoring students in the same environment they work to protect. I will keep fighting for federal investments to support science, our most fundamental tool in fighting climate change, and supporting the scientists of today and tomorrow, dedicated to solving one of our most pressing issues.”

“The climate crisis is an urgent threat to New Mexico and the nation that brings with it the risk of drought and wildfire seasons that start earlier and last longer. This challenge requires all of us to work together, and I’m glad that this grant will support New Mexico students researching climate change and water availability and help chart our path forward,” said Luján. “Our students are our future, and I’m proud that they will be partners in tackling this existential crisis.”

“Our children deserve to inherit clean air, drinkable water, and a livable planet, but right now climate change is threatening our future. It is our responsibility to act,” said Haaland, Vice Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. “The research funded by these grants will find solutions that will help address the climate crisis, so that New Mexico remains the beautiful home we all love.”

“We’re in the midst of a water crisis and it’s critical we work together to find science based solutions to protect our community, economy, and way of life. UNM is on the forefront of climate change research, and this grant will help scientists identify answers to the unique challenges related to water we face in the Southwest,” said Torres Small. “As we continue to feel the effects of a changing climate, especially in the form of longer droughts, investments like this are critical to finding real solutions that work for New Mexico so we can address challenges together.”

The $2,999,999 grant comes from NSF’s Research Traineeship (NRT) Program, designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.