Dr. Rob Dillon, Coordinator

Monday, November 6, 2000

FWGNA Phase I NSF Proposal

To the FWGNA group,

I'm happy to report that last Friday (Nov. 3) we resubmitted our "Phase I" proposal to the NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories program. This year's version of the proposal directly involves 12 senior investigators: R.T. Dillon, K. M. Brown, R. Hershler, R. F. McMahon, D. L. Strayer, E. H. Jokinen, S. A. Ahlstedt, P. D. Johnson, R. Bieler, J-M. Gagnon, R. P. Guralnick, and G. T. Watters. The primary goal of Phase I remains the construction of a publicly-accessible database unifying all the freshwater gastropod collections held by North American museums. In addition, we have requested funds to bring taxon working groups to Washington, for the purpose of assembling a national reference collection of freshwater gastropods. The three-year budget totals approximately $925k.

I've appended the project summary below. The acronym "LTLSI" stands for "Long-term Large-scale Inventory."

We don't expect to hear from the NSF regarding a funding decision until March. In the mean time, I'll keep you all posted as usual!


--------[ begin NSF Project Summary]--------

LTLSI: The Freshwater Gastropods of North America, Phase I

The freshwater snails north of Mexico are a diverse fauna comprising about 500 species in 15 families. They are the dominant primary consumers in many freshwater ecosystems, regulating community structure and biomass of periphyton and plants, and serving as a foundation for populations of predators such as ducks, trout, and other recreationally-important fish. They are useful environmental indicators, essential hosts for livestock parasites, and important model organisms for physiological, ecological, and evolutionary studies of great generality. Yet this fauna is endangered. Widespread impoundment, pollution, and channelization of our nation's rivers in the first half of the 20th century precipitated catastrophic extinctions. At least 38 freshwater snail species endemic to the Mobile Basin disappeared in the 1940's, and the decline continues to the present day due to pollution, siltation, and public works projects. The present U.S. Federal list of 17 threatened and endangered species and 13 candidate species vastly underestimates the scope of the problem. A modern survey is urgently required.

Here we propose a large-scale, collaborative inventory of the freshwater gastropods north of Mexico. This project, originated at the World Congress of Malacology in 1998, is an activity of the newly-formed Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society. It currently involves 91 participants, and an Editorial Committee of eight. Phase I, the subject of the present proposal, is a compilation of the freshwater gastropod records held in 10 major North American museums into an electronic database. This will involve the integration of a variety of currently existing database structures, and new data entry initiatives around the United States and Canada. The Editorial Committee, working with taxon specialists, will estimate error rates and provide quality control of museum records. The unified database, representing almost 90% of the catalogued lots held by North American museums, will be made available via the World Wide Web, searchable by standard query. A pilot demonstration may be viewed on line, at: [link removed]

Phase II will involve original field surveys. The unified database developed in Phase I will be sorted regionally, and geographic gaps and weaknesses assessed. The Editorial Committee will then develop and implement a plan to survey those regions which may not have been explored in recent years, or may hold species whose conservation status is of special concern. Maps will be prepared showing both the current and historical distribution of each species. Phase III of the FWGNA project will involve the preparation of individual species accounts. The continental database will be sorted taxonomically and allocated to Taxon Working Groups. Species determinations will be reviewed and new taxonomic research programs, using both traditional and molecular techniques, will be designed as needed.

Both traditional (paper volume) and web-based information products will be produced, allowing biologists of diverse background to identify all elements of the North American freshwater gastropod fauna. A complete and current reference to the systematics, ecology, general biology, and conservation status of this important and threatened element of our fauna will result.

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