Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation
Freshwater ecosystems cover approximately 1% of Earth’s surface area, but are inhabited by an extraordinary diversity of animals, including 51% (>18,000) of all fish species. Increasing societal demands for freshwater resources over the past century have dramatically altered freshwater habitats worldwide, but the anthropogenic impacts on freshwater biodiversity are not fully appreciated by the public. Accordingly, a disproportionate number of freshwater species are threatened with extinction. In the United States, freshwater species represent 46% of animals protected by the United States Endangered Species Act, and globally, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers approximately 30% of all freshwater fish species to be threatened with extinction. More than 80 freshwater fish species have been declared extinct. Our research in freshwater biodiversity conservation is intended to slow and reverse these trends, by providing regulatory agencies with data necessary to optimize species recovery plans. We also recognize the invaluable benefits of public outreach, and we regularly interact with the communities who share the northern gulf ecoregion.
Northern Gulf Aquatic Biodiversity Inventory (NGABI)
NGABI is a project aimed at documenting every freshwater animal within the Northern Gulf Slope, including a region bounded by the Pearl River Watershed on the west and the Apalachicola River Watershed on the east.
Biotic Homogenization of Endemic Communities via the Tenn-Tom Waterway
The Tenn-Tom Waterway represents one of the most extensive anthropogenic landscape alterations in eastern North America. By uniting the Tennessee River and Mobile River Watersheds, the Tenn-Tom Waterway facilitates contact and gene flow among previously isolated populations of hundreds of freshwater animals. LAQE alumnus Patricia (Kiersten) Schellhammer has completed an investigation of gene flow among populations of Bullhead Minnow (Pimephales vigilax), and ongoing research is assessing the potential for gene flow among two cryptic species of Walleye (Sander spp.), both economically important species endemic to the southeastern United States.
Phylogenomics of Alburnops
Zachariah Alley is conducting research on the phylogenetic relationships of Alburnops minnows in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Science degree.
Stream Capture in the Mobile River Watershed
Julia Wood, MSc, is testing the hypothesis of stream capture as an explanation for her discovery of three species in the Mobile River watershed that were traditionally considered endemic to the Tennessee River watershed.
Conservation Genomics of the Southern Walleye (Sander sp. cf. vitreus)
Conservation Genomics of the Trispot Darter
Kayla Fast, MSc, has led the LAQE investigation of genomic variation among populations of the federally protected Trispot Darter (Etheostoma trisella). In collaboration with Dr. Brook Fluker of Arkansas State University and Dr. Bernie Kuhajda of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, we will soon publish our research, which demonstrates the negative impacts of riverine impoundments on the viability of stream fishes. This work is funded by an award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, awarded jointly to the Geological Survey of Alabama and Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Conservation Genomics of the Coal Darter
Kenny Jones, BSc, has completed his thesis research on conservation genomics of the Coal Darter (Percina brevicauda), a small freshwater fish endemic to Alabama. This work was funded by a Section 6 award from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Conservation Genomics of the Bridled Darter (Percina kusha)
Mason Strickland, BSc, is conducting an investigation of conservation genomics of the Bridled Darter (Percina kusha) and the Etowah Bridled Darter (Percina freemanorum) in Georgia. This work is funded by an award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in collaboration with the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.