Staff spotlight: Phillip Bumpers

From wading into streams to crunching numbers on datasets, Phillip Bumpers, the River Basin Center’s research coordinator, has dedicated his career to furthering human understanding of the complex freshwater ecosystems in Southeastern streams and rivers. 

Bumpers runs a number of projects for the River Basin Center, including water quality monitoring of local streams throughout Athens, monitoring fish populations in the Upper Coosa River Basin, research that examines how warming temperatures might impact stream ecosystems with River Basin Center affiliate Dr. Amy Rosemond, and his PhD work, which examines how macroinvertebrates (or insects and other stream dwelling critters) and fishes are affected by environmental change. 

“I’m asking several questions through this project: How does climate variation affect aquatic communities? Are there trends? Can we link any of these trends to changes within the aquatic communities?” Bumpers said of his PhD project. “Our main goal is to understand those relationships so that we can better predict how those communities and populations might respond to future climate change or management actions that result in similar environmental change.” 

Bumpers records data while in the field.

His PhD project ties in closely to the other work he does at the River Basin Center. 

“This is a new project in that I’m working with new data, but it’s all under the same umbrella of trying to understand how ecosystems respond to environmental and global change, with an emphasis on human-induced global change,” Bumpers said.    

Bumpers’ interest in freshwater streams and rivers first developed during a childhood spent camping, fishing and canoeing in the Ozarks in Arkansas. 

“I always had a strong interest in the streams and rivers in the Ozarks. And while I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I got to college, I knew I wanted it to be related to the natural world,” Bumpers said. 

His formal training on the topic began at the University of Arkansas, where he started working for a PhD student who was studying the diet of the Louisiana water thrush, which depends on macroinvertebrate in streams. Following that first foray into the world of aquatic science, he spent an additional two years working in a lab that focused on aquatic ecology and research. 

Bumpers first came to the University of Georgia after becoming interested in Rosemond’s work on southeastern stream systems, and earned his Master’s degree while working with Dr. Rosemond. Since then, he’s continued his work as a research professional both within the Rosemond lab and at the River Basin Center. 

To learn more about Bumpers’ work or get in touch about his project management services, you can reach him at: bumpersp@uga.edu.

Bumpers (middle) and colleagues sample for fish.