ENMU Professor Discusses Research Projects in Aquatic and Marine Biology

Dr. Jesse Filbrun
Dr. Jesse Filbrun

ENMU Professor Discusses Research Projects in Aquatic and Marine Biology

Dr. Jesse Filbrun, an assistant professor of aquatic ecology at Eastern New Mexico University, is currently involved in multiple research projects in aquatic and marine ecology. The common theme of his projects is testing environmental effects on early-life growth and survival of fishes.

"I am currently working on projects to improve feeding methods for juvenile catfish in aquaculture ponds, understand the effects of predator experience on prey choice by juvenile fish and explore the distribution of fish eggs and larvae in the Gulf of Mexico relative to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," he explained.

"I am also writing grants to establish a larval fish survey in the Pecos River of New Mexico to quantify how fish assemblages respond to environmental changes."

He was raised in a small town near Toledo, Ohio. He is the youngest of three, with an older brother and sister. His father is a retired engineer, and his mother supported the family from home.

His collegiate experience in biology began during a summer internship with the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates under Dr. Tom Bridgeman at the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center in 2007.

"My project involved measuring the abundance of cyanobacterial blooms in Lake Erie from historical samples," said the ENMU professor. "I loved working independently in the lab and gaining hands-on experience in the field collecting samples. It basically set my career path in aquatic ecology."

The experience led to his acceptance into graduate school at Ohio State University in 2008 to begin a research program in aquaculture. He received a B.S. from Bowling Green State University in 2008 and a Ph.D. in evolution, ecology and organismal biology from Ohio State University in 2013. His dissertation title is "An Ecological Approach to Feed Management in Fish Rearing Ponds."

His professional influences are his colleagues at ENMU and former colleagues in Arkansas, Mississippi and Ohio. His professional role model is Dr. David Culver, his primary advisor in graduate school.

"Dr. Culver had a tremendously productive career and taught me how to be an effective scientist," said Dr. Filbrun. "Nearly all aspects of my career (e.g., my interests, how I interact with students, how I present materials, how I cope with stress) were established during my formative years under his mentorship."

His peer-reviewed paper written in graduate school is his proudest accomplishment. The paper was nominated for the James LaBounty Award for best paper published in "Lake and Reservoir Management" in 2013. "The paper did not win, but it was an honor to be recognized by my peers for my accomplishment in an international journal," he explained.

The professor lives in Portales with his wife, Hilary, and his three children, Mason, Jack and Daisy. They have two dogs: a pug named Ellie and a mixed-breed named Joey. In his spare time, Dr. Filbrun enjoys "caring for my aquariums, playing disc golf and exploring natural areas with my family."

He also loves to travel, "especially in the western states. A few of my favorite places I have visited or lived are the Pacific Northwest at Seattle, Washington, and Eureka, California; Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona; and the Gulf Coast at Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This summer we plan to explore New Mexico beyond the immediate region."

He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi from 2013 to 2014, where he studied the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and environmental variation on larval fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

He then moved to Magnolia, Arkansas, and was an assistant professor of biology at Southern Arkansas University from 2014 to 2017. He taught a diversity of introductory and advanced biology classes and studied early-life diets and growth of Channel Catfish. He led the Marine Biology degree option and served as the Biology Chair from 2016 to 2017.

Dr. Filbrun, who has been a member of the American Fisheries Society since 2014, was drawn to ENMU because he enjoys teaching and research. "I was attracted to the teacher-scholar model in the Biology Department at ENMU that balances a manageable course load with opportunities for engaging undergraduates and M.S. students in meaningful research projects.

"I was also drawn to the research facilities and resources here at ENMU, which I think are exceptional for a regional university. For example, my students and I can perform experiments year-round in the Behavioral Ecology Lab behind the Science Building."

His favorite thing about ENMU is the "general friendliness, directness and sincerity of the University community and the broader citizens of Portales. My family and I discovered many ways to engage in the community much quicker than we expected. We are happy that our transition here went so smoothly."

He currently teaches "General Ecology/Lab," "Limnology" and "Ichthyology/Lab." His favorite class to teach is "Ichthyology Lab," where "we conduct a variety of field methods to collect fishes, work with state biologists and perform novel laboratory experiments. I most enjoy the hands-on approach to learning in this class, and the students have fun, too."

The professor's favorite part of his job is "building relationships with students and watching them succeed at later stages in life. Publishing papers is great, and so is immediate satisfaction from teaching in the classroom. However, I most enjoy hearing back from students about their post-graduate triumphs and successes. It makes me feel good to know I am impacting students' lives."

His ultimate career goal is to "make a meaningful contribution to serving the students and citizens of this region and advancing my professional field. Specifically, I would like to build a student-driven research program to conserve the aquatic resources of New Mexico. I am especially eager to contribute to the conservation of our native fishes that are increasingly imperiled by aridification, pollution and non-native species introductions.


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