To the FWGNA group:
On Friday, November 5, our "Phase I" proposal was submitted to the NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories program. The nine of us on the Editorial Committee (Dillon, Ahlstedt, Brown, Hershler, Johnson, Jokinen, McMahon, Strayer, & Wu) have proposed, for the bargain price of just $650k (3 years), to unify the modern collections of freshwater gastropods currently held in North American museums into a single database accessible through the web. A project summary is appended to this message.
As you are all aware, such an inventory of museum holdings is but a small first step in our ambitious undertaking. Original field surveys and monographic revision will follow. As always, your thoughts and comments are solicited.
We'll keep in touch,
-------[NSF Proposal Summary]--------
The Freshwater Gastropods of North America: Phase I Project Summary
The freshwater snails north of Mexico are a diverse fauna estimated to comprise about 500 species in 15 families. They are the dominant primary consumers in many freshwater ecosystems, regulating producer community structure, controlling periphyton biomass, and serving as a foundation for populations of secondary consumers such as ducks, trout, and other recreationally-important fish. They may serve as environmental indicators, hosts for livestock parasites, or model organisms for physiological, ecological, and evolutionary studies of great generality and importance.
Yet the fauna is endangered. The widespread impoundment and channelization of our nation's rivers in the first half of this 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. Although alarming, we think that 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 request support for 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 involves 71 participants at present, and an Editorial Committee of nine. Phase I, the subject of the present proposal, is a survey and compilation of the modern freshwater gastropod records held in 21 North American museums. 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 unified database, totaling approximately 200,000 lots, will be made available via the World Wide Web, searchable by standard query.
Based on a regional sort of this database, the Editorial Committee will design Phase II of this project, a schedule of original field surveys. Museum data will also be sorted taxonomically and forwarded, along with all fresh field data, to Taxon Editors who will review each species determination.
In the third "Monographic Phase" of the FWGNA project, Taxon Editors will prepare individual "species accounts." These will be collected into both traditional (paper volume) and web-based information products allowing professional biologists of diverse background to identify all elements of the North American freshwater gastropod fauna. An entering wedge will be offered to the systematics, ecology, general biology, and conservation status of each species. Dot maps will be prepared showing actual current distributions. Students will be involved in all aspects of the project. Based on these data, the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society will compile revised and updated lists of threatened species, along with management and recovery options, to forward to natural resources agencies for the purposes of conservation.