Georgia Southern Biology Department professors to study endangered mussel species

Rachel Adams

The Georgia Southern University Department of Biology is using genetic technology to aid in the monitoring of endangered mussel species.

According to a GS press release, there is a high diversity of freshwater mussels present in the southeastern rivers of the United States. They help maintain water quality as they feed.

However, the number of freshwater mussels has declined rapidly because of dams, pollution, and other factors, resulting in smaller, isolated populations and a loss of diversity.

Jamie Roberts, Ph.D. and Christian Cox, Ph.D., two GS biology professors, were awarded a grant totaling $125,000 by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to develop a comprehensive genetics monitoring program. This program will help monitor eight different endangered mussel species in North Carolina and understand genetic connectivity diversity among populations of mussels.

“Genetically diverse populations are generally more resilient to conservation risks, so our work will tell us about genetic diversity in the wild and can help ensure that captive populations represent standing genetic diversity in the wild,” Cox said in an email.

The eight mussel species Cox and Roberts are planning to study are the Yellow Lance, Tar River Spinymussel, Dwarf Wedgemussel, Atlantic Pigtoe, James River Spinymussel, Appalachian Elktoe, Tennessee Clubshell and Brook Floater.

Rachel Adams, The George-Anne News Reporter,