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Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center

February 20, 2011

I got up about 8 am local time very much rested and ready for a full day. We toured the Center where Paul Johnson is the director. He has spent the past five years resurrecting an abandoned USFWS fish hatchery and converting it to function as a center for the study of freshwater clams and freshwater snails. It has at least four functioning ponds and five buildings to house host fish for the larvae of freshwater mussels and large tanks to hold and study freshwater snails. Most of the mollusks being studied here are state or federally endangered. I was last here about 2.5 years ago and Paul has made tremendous progress. They are having phenomenal success with rearing endangered freshwater mussels and snails.

Bucket to grow juvenile mussels in pond

Bucket to grow juvenile mussels in pond

I was  excited to see populations of different species of Leptoxis ( a very cool genus of freshwater snail, kind of looks like a marble with an orange foot, that a student at the University of Alabama is using for part of his dissertation). We went out to the second pond to look at cultured specimens of another amazing species of freshwater clams unique to Alabama, the endangered  Lampsilis virescens. They are only found today in a limited number of rivers and creeks in Alabama. I have never seen so many specimens of this species in my life … all about nine months old and doing great in buckets suspended in the pond. We looked at a number of buckets and then returned to the center to see the set up for growing and  holding snails and noted that one species of Leptoxis had laid eggs on the edge of the tank at the water line.

Art Bogan collecting snails

Art Bogan collecting snails

We left at noon to sample a very rare snail from a small spring head northeast of Centreville behind an old church. We found them in abundance but this is one of only two known springs where this species occurs. We continued on to the Birmingham Airport to pick up Dr. Ellen Strong from the Smithsonian Institution. She is coming to work with us to discuss the American Fisheries Society conservation assessment of the freshwater snails of North America, all 800-odd species as well as our main project, the catalog of the taxa described in the large family of freshwater snails, Pleuroceridae. We have been working on this project for about four years with funding from the State of Alabama. We stopped in Birmingham at Dreamland Barbeque for ribs, white bread, slaw, beans and bread pudding. (We  left stuffed!) Jeff Garner, an aquatic biologist for the State of Alabama, drove down from Florence to to help us edit the AFS snail conservation paper and more importantly to work on the type catalog. Jeff was a co-author on the Freshwater Mussels of Alabama paper we published in 2008. We called it an early night.

—Art Bogan

Link:  Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center

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