This summer has certainly been odd, but we were finally able to get out and conduct our quantitative surveys on the Duck River in Tennessee. The Duck River has an incredibly diverse freshwater mussel fauna and it was incredible seeing so many species. We knocked out 4 sites over a 4 day period with collaboration with Tennessee Wildlife Resources and Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners! This was complemented by camping at Henry Horton State Park. It was quite the week!
In excellent news, both Jamie Bucholz and Megan Davis received fellowships to help support their research. Megan received the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity fellowship from the University of Alabama. This fellowship gives her research support over the summer. Jamie received the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) State Doctoral Scholars Program award which provides an incredible three years of support. Congratulations to both of them on their achievements!
The whole Mussel group got together March 2-3 in Tuscaloosa, AL to discuss progress to date and preliminary data. It was exciting to see everything starting to come together and discuss new directions for this coming summer's field work!
Some of the Dimensions Team traveled to Athens, Georgia this past weekend to visit the Capps Lab at the University of Georgia (UGA) for the annual ATKAPPS Exchange. Atkinson lab members met with faculty from the School of Ecology and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at UGA to discuss their research. We also took a behind the scenes tour of the Georgia Natural History Museum. We completed the weekend with a party at the Capps house on Friday night and a late morning walk at the Georgia Botanical Gardens! Fun time seeing and meeting colleagues! Roll Dawgs!
We have had a very productive summer! We have completed sampling on Bogue Chitto Creek, the Paint Rock River, and Bear Creek. At this point, we have dug ~500 quadrats and conducted excretion measurements on over 300 mussels! We took a bit of a break this past week and the Alabama crew attended the 2019 Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint Basin mussel workshop at the Jones Ecological Research Center in southwest Georgia. It was great continuing seeing new mussel species after all the work in the Mobile and Tennessee basins. We'll be back at on the Buttahatchee River next week.
Over the last week and a half, the University of Alabama group, which has included Carla Atkinson (PI), Jeff Lozier (PI), Jamie Bucholz (PhD student), Ansley Hamid (undergraduate researcher), and Austin Beets (undergraduate researcher), have visited and sampled all of the sites for the project. We have visited the Sipsey River (AL), the Cahaba River (AL), Bogue Chitto Creek (AL), Bear Creek (AL), Paint Rock River (AL), the Buttahatchee River (MS), and the Duck River (TN). We have been collecting water samples, collecting seston samples (mussel food), and have been characterizing the substrate of each site. It's been hot, but luckily we can take a swim to cool down!
This past Tuesday Carla and Jeff drove over to Oxford, MS for our first group meeting to plan out the project. We had a productive day long workshop to discuss field work, personnel hiring, develop a comprehensive sample processing protocol, pose for photographs, and eat southern diner food. We are well on our way to getting things rolling.
In addition, NSF issues a press release about the Dimensions grants, and highlighted our mussel project. UA and Ole Miss also issued nice stories to coincide with the press release. Links to the stories below.
NSF press release
U Alabama story
Ole Miss Story
And Carla was on the Birmingham WBHM NPR station! Listen here, or story here!
We did some site scouting on Bear Creek today with Paul Johnson (ALDCNR), Nathan Whelan (USFWS), and Jeff Garner (ALDCNR). We got to three sites and saw a large diversity of mussels with 14 species being encountered in a short period of time. Epioblasma brevidens were swabbed for genetic samples as part of Nate's research and temperature, depth, and conductivity loggers were launched at a site for this project. Looking forward to working more in Bear Creek!
The Atkinson lab assisted the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with their quantitative surveys of Paint Rock River mussels. The Paint Rock is a real beauty in north Alabama with 51 species of mussels! We knocked out two sites and had some time for some site scouting for this project. We're off to a good start!