August 22, 2017

Tarleton graduate students find threatened mussels

STEPHENVILLE (August 4, 2017) — A pair of Tarleton State University graduate students were part of a team of researchers that recently located two threatened species of mussels.

Leah Woolam and Austin Kaulfus were helping conduct a survey of freshwater mussels in the Colorado River downstream from Tarleton’s Timberlake Biological Field Station in Mills County.

During their sampling, the student researchers found surviving populations of smooth pimpleback and Texas pimpleback mussels.

The find is particularly significant for Tarleton since the threatened mussels are adjacent to the biological field station.

Tarleton graduate students helped locate two threatened species of mussels.

“It is more important now than ever before that we learn how to balance economic and environmental sustainability to prevent further loss of biodiversity,” said Dr. Christopher Higgins, associate professor in Tarleton’s department of biological sciences and director of the Timberlake Station.

Higgins said the project provided both students valuable field experience that will come in handy when they begin their individual thesis projects in the fall.

Woolam will conduct habitat and population assessments of freshwater mussels downstream and upstream from the confluence of the San Saba River. Kaulfus’ research is to examine host-parasite interactions in these same mussel populations.

“Both of these studies will improve our understanding of the factors and interactions affecting the distribution and abundance of freshwater mussels in the historically important Colorado River,” Higgins said.

Joining the Tarleton students in the project were biologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and researchers from the University of Texas.

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