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.
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
There are 6 people in the Aquatic Conservation and Ecology Team
Is habitat fragmentation endangering the Yazoo Darter?
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.
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.
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