Aquatic Conservation and Ecology Team

Two people standing on a boat with nets

This team conducts research on the life histories, community dynamics, and ecological functions of terrestrial and aquatic animals within bottomland hardwood ecosystems. The research is organized within an ecological hierarchy encompassing species communities/assemblages, ecosystems, and landscapes. The effects of forest management are evaluated at each level.

Emphases are:

  • Identifying species-specific life history attributes or strategies that affect resilience of populations
  • Examining patterns of animal community composition and structure in relation to habitat and biological interactions
  • Determining baseline habitat conditions and associated levels of variability in populations, communities, and assemblages of animals along gradients of space and/or time
  • Providing technology transfer of methods for evaluating and maintaining biodiversity in a multiple-resource context

Team Members

There are 6 people in the Aquatic Conservation and Ecology Team
Name Title Phone
Adams, Susan B. Team Leader / Research Fisheries Biologist 662-234-2744 x267
Barnett, Zanethia C. Research Fisheries Biologist 662-234-2744 x268
Bland, Mickey Biological Science Technician 662-234-2744
Haag, Wendell R. Research Fisheries Biologist 502-573-0330 x228
Smith, Carl Biological Science Technician 662-686-3173
Warren, Mel Research Biologist 662-234-2744

Visit our Crayfishes of Mississippi Website

Mississippi has one of the most diverse crayfish faunas in the world and is home to at least 17 endemic species (meaning they occur nowhere else).

View our Mississippi species list, photo galleries, fact sheets, distribution maps, and more.

Download a poster featuring over 30 color photos of Mississippi crayfishes (PDF) →

Stream temperature relationships to fish and crayfish distributions in north Mississippi

Climate change is expected to adversely affect numerous warmwater animal species. Read about our stream temperature monitoring network and what we are learning about Yazoo Darter and crayfish populations →

Is habitat fragmentation endangering the Yazoo Darter?

A Yazoo Darter with atypical blue coloring. (Forest Service photo)

That certainly seems to be the case. A recent study by Dr. Mel Warren, Mr. Ken Sterling (formerly with the Center, now Utah State University), and other university cooperators suggests that extensive habitat alteration in the form of impoundments, road, crossings, and channelized streams is creating barriers to disbursement and isolating entire populations of Etheostoma raneyi (Yazoo Darter). Recent and severe declines in contemporary migration rates relative to historical rates were also indicated. The Final Report to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, which includes discussion of the genetic effects of habitat fragmentation as well as recommended management practices, was released November 30, 2011.

Learn more about the Yazoo Darter and this project →

What mussel shell rings are telling us

A mussell shell. (Forest Service photo)

Freshwater mussels are among the longest-lived animals on Earth (up to nearly 200 years). As they grow, mussels form annual rings in their shells—much like tree rings—that can be used to determine an individual's age. Dr. Wendell Haag’s research has refined and extended techniques for studying these rings (please see our photo album "Aging Mussel Shells"), and he is investigating the many other things they can tell us about mussel ecology and aquatic ecosystems in general.

One of the first surprises was that lifespan varies greatly among species. Some are indeed long-lived (>50 years), but others may live only 4-5 years suggesting that mussels use a broad range of life history strategies. Second, growth varies considerably and predictably according to hydrologic and climatic factors. Third, even slight disturbances cause mussels to form distinctive rings that can be distinguished from normal, annual rings. Annual patterns of growth and occurrence of disturbance rings potentially provide a valuable record of changing habitat conditions over time.

Along with collaborators, Haag has published five papers on this research to date, and is currently analyzing large scale growth patterns including an effort to build continuous growth histories stretching back >100 years.

Interactive Map Tool for Yazoo Darter Research

Screenshot of the Yazoo Darter Interactive Map.

Yazoo Darter researchers have a useful tool in their arsenal thanks to EATF team members Dr. Mel Warren and Ken Sterling.

All known collections of fish within the range of the Yazoo Darter (Etheostoma raneyi), have been compiled into a single "published" map which can be interactively explored by researchers using free ArcReader software. The data can be viewed in a variety of different ways, with and without supporting layers such as ecological levels and hydrologic unit codes, and expanded habitat attributes are included where available. For more information, contact Dr. Mel Warren.

Book by Dr. Wendell Haag Provides First Comprehensive Review of North American Freshwater Mussel Ecology and Conservation Efforts

The cover of Dr. Haag’s book, North American freshwater mussels: natural history, ecology, and conservation

Dr. Haag’s book, North American freshwater mussels: natural history, ecology, and conservation, uses historical and contemporary information as well as the author’s own original research to chronicle in detail the history, ecology, and conservation of the approximately 300 species of North American freshwater mussels.

Learn more about Dr. Haag and his research →