Leptoxis ampla, a pleurocerid snail endemic to the Cahaba River in Central Alabama, is federally threatened under the United States Endangered Species Act. Listed species need effective conservation efforts, but many at-risk invertebrate species have been poorly studied. We are using RAD-seq to examine the molecular ecology and landscape genomics of Leptoxis ampla. This project will reveal genetic differences among populations, migration pattterns, whether urban sprawl is causing population declines, and how genetic differences among populations contributes to differences in shell shape.
Building on our Leptoxis ampla project, we were funded to examine population genomics of over 15 pleurocerid species. We are using a comparative approach to examine genetic diversity of common riverine species, candidae and listed species, and narrow range endemics found in less than five springs. We are examining whether differences in life history contribute to differences in genetic diversity and population connectivity. Ultimately, these data will be used to inform listing decisions and management plans.
Captive propagation and reintroduction of freshwater mussels has become a common management tool over the last ten years. Freshwater mussels are now routinely propagated in hatcheries across the United States, including at many National Fish Hatcheries. We are using population genomic analyses to inform the development of propagation plans. Our research will be used to inform important hatchery decisions such as choice of appropriate broodstock populations and propagation protocols that ensure appropriate levels of genetic diveristy in captively propagated populations. Species we are working on include Spectaclecase (Cumberlandia monodonta), Cumberlandian Combshell (Epioblasma brevidens), Louisiana Pearshell (Margaritifera hembeli)
As a USFWS research lab, one of our missions is to perform genetic analyses that aim to evaluate and improve fish and mussel propagation at National Fish Hatcheries. This work includes using population genetics to identify appropriate broodstock populations and to evaluate hatchery success. For example, we use standard genetic parentage analyses to measure hatchery contribution to the American Shad population in the Edisto River in North Carolina. Species we work on include Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), and Sicklefin Redhorse (Moxostoma sp.) Hatchery partners include Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery, and Welaka National Fish Hatchery.