Freshwater Mussel Webinar Series

The Freshwater Mussel Conservation Webinar Series aims to provide a vehicle for the freshwater mussel community to share recent advancements in the world of freshwater mussel conservation. This series targets biologists, managers and other members of the conservation community interested in staying up-to-date on the science of freshwater mussel conservation.

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Disclaimer: This webinar series is for educational purposes only. The opinions, ideas or data presented in this webinar series do not represent FWS policy or constitute endorsement by FWS. Some of the materials and images may be protected by copyright or may have been licenses to us by a third party and are restricted in their use. Mention of any product names, companies, Web links, textbooks, or other references does not imply Federal endorsement.

Webinar Descriptions

A Survey-design Framework Based on the Motivating Question(s) to Guide the Choice of Methods and Techniques

  • Details: Effective conservation of freshwater mussels relies on high-quality, management-relevant scientific data and evidence. Data collection and analysis to support freshwater mussel conservation has kept up with the advancement of methods and techniques, such as occupancy modeling, PIT tagging, eDNA sampling, species distribution modeling. Freshwater mussel conservationists now have many options in their survey-design toolbox. But sometimes survey design is approached with the focus on methods application and not by first clarifying the question that is motivating the survey’s need. So, I propose a framework to guide survey design and the choice of methods and techniques based on the fundamental motivating question(s). In this talk, I briefly review the conservation questions that motivate surveys and the core techniques used for freshwater mussel surveys. I hope to stimulate discussion on the current alignment of the core techniques with the motivating questions and the training needs for survey design and implementation.

  • Presenters: Dr. Dave Smith (USGS)

  • Recorded: June 30, 2020

  • Duration: 58 minutes

Genomics as an Essential Tool for Freshwater Mussel Conservation

  • Details: Freshwater mussels are among the most imperiled groups of organisms on the planet. Yet, compared to other groups like mammals and fish, they are woefully understudied. In order for conservation plans to be successful, managers need data on a range of topics, including toxicology, systematics and taxonomy, landscape genetics, and genetic management of propagated populations. Here, I will provide an overview of ongoing mussel research at the USFWS Southeast Conservation Genetics Lab, with an emphasis on genomic tools for enhancing management outcomes. I will briefly give a history of mussel genetics work, but I will focus on emerging technologies and exciting research directions. New genomic tools being used by USFWS provide high resolution data for answering questions about genetic diversity across a species’ range, patterns of gene flow, and how species are genetically responding to changing environments. Genomic data can also be used to assess how current best-practice captive propagation protocols influence genetic diversity of captively reared and reintroduced populations. During this talk, I will use the federally threatened Louisiana Pearlshell (Margaritifera hembeli) as a model to explain how genomic data are increasing our understanding of a critically imperiled freshwater mussel. Recent work from my lab has revealed low genomic diversity in Louisiana Pearlshell but a surprising amount of gene flow among remaining populations. We also demonstrated that Louisiana Pearlshell females mate with multiple males in the wild, which has implications for best-practice propagation protocols. Finally, I will talk about new technologies being used by USFWS that are enabling assembly of cost-effective reference genomes for non-model organisms like freshwater mussels, and I will discuss how such data can be used to examine selection at the genomic level. Conservationists face many challenges to ensuring the survival of freshwater mussels, but new genomic technologies have great potential for improving management outcomes.

  • Presenters: Dr. Nathan Whelan

  • Recorded: July 28, 2020

  • Duration: 62 Minutes

The New Freshwater Mussel Silo: Design, Construction and Conservation Application

  • Details: Mussel silos are portable passive flow devices for caging juvenile mussels in streams. Silos allow periodic monitoring of survival and growth, and are used to test pollution effects, site suitability for population restoration, and for ecological studies. This webinar will present an updated design and detailed instructions for construction and use of mussel silos.

  • Presenters: Chris Barnhart

  • Recorded: July 14, 2020

  • Duration: 68 Minutes

What are Freshwater Mussels Worth?

  • Details: The advent of the ecosystem services framework has raised the question of what freshwater mussels really are worth, and how we might best use this information in environmental decision-making. I will briefly discuss why it might be useful to try to assign values to freshwater mussels, review the different kinds of values that freshwater mussels provide (including direct-use values, indirect-use values, existence values, option values, bequest values and replacement values), describe progress towards providing quantitative estimates of those values, and discuss problems with these valuation approaches. Despite uncertainty about the precise value of freshwater mussels, it is clear that they can have very substantial value to humans, which should be taken into account in environmental decision-making.

  • Presenters: Dr. Dave Strayer

  • Recorded: June 16, 2020

  • Duration: 59 Minutes