Dr. Rob Dillon, Coordinator

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Do the Charleston?

To the FWGNA group,

Please accept my invitation to attend the 68th annual meeting of the American Malacological Society here in Charleston, August 3 - 7, 2002. See the website:

Our featured symposium will be "The Biology and Conservation of Freshwater Gastropods." I've lassoed a galaxy of malacological stars to make presentations, and the entire FWGNA group will get together to formulate project strategy for the future.

There will, of course, be the usual contributed paper and poster sessions, evening programs, an endowment auction, and a dinner cruise on Charleston Harbor. Field trips will be available for every taste, featuring historic tours, a fossil trip, and a boat trip to pristine Bull Island.

Housing will be available at modest cost in dormitory facilities at the College of Charleston. Lodging is also available at the Westin Francis Marion Hotel, located adjacent to the meeting facilities.

This afternoon I've placed brochures in the snail-mail to those of you for whom I have addresses. Registration materials and a call for papers should go out in February or March. But mark your calendars today! And I'll see you in Charleston next summer.

Season's Greetings,

Thursday, November 29, 2001

FWGNA Edcomm

To the FWGNA group,

I am pleased to report that Dr. Rob Guralnick has agreed to join the Editorial Committee for our project. He succeeds Bob Hershler, who resigned as the Pacific regional coordinator last month, citing other commitments.

Rob is a 1999 Ph.D. from Dave Lindberg's lab at Berkeley. He is so skilled, both with molecules and with computers, that he went straight from grad school to win Shi-Kuei Wu's old post at the University of Colorado Museum.

It occurs to me that quite a few of you have joined this list since the EdComm was established 8/99, and may not know who these folks are or what they do. The EdComm is a group of eight malacologists, organized regionally, who provide oversight and guidance to the FWGNA project. They served as "Principal Investigators" for the NSF proposals we submitted in 1999 and 2000, and will edit the final products (both print and electronic) when we get to that stage (still quite a few years down the road.) Names and contact info follow:
Rob Guralnick brings a lot of strengths to a project already quite obviously bulging with scientific talent. Join me in welcoming him to the Edcomm.

And keep in touch!

Monday, September 3, 2001

Report From Vienna

To the FWGNA group:

The American Malacological Society met with Unitas Malacologia in Vienna, Austria, August 19 - 25 in what might fairly be counted as the second "World Congress of Malacology." The following is a brief recap, from the special standpoint of the Freshwater Gastropods of North America project.

I understand that The Congress attracted somewhere around 400 - 500 registrants, and that a roughly equivalent number of papers and posters were presented. The North American turnout was a bit light (perhaps only 70 - 80) almost certainly due to the lateness of the season - school starts in late August for many of us on this side of the Atlantic. But I enjoyed meeting the host of workers from South America, Asia, and Africa, whom one would ordinarily not encounter at functions in the USA.

The five symposia organized for this meeting included one that will be of particular interest to the members of our group. Ian Killeen (Felixtowe, UK) and Mary Seddon (National Museum of Wales) organized a session entitled "Molluscan Conservation & Biodiversity" that included a keynote address, seven 20-minute symposium presentations, and twenty 15-minute "satellite" talks distributed over three days.

The keynote was offered by Mr. Tony Whitten, Senior Biodiversity Specialist for the World Bank, who asked rhetorically, "Malacologists: What are your priorities?" His premises were that (1) there is a global biodiversity crisis, and that (2) there has never been more money available for biodiversity conservation from governments, foundations, conservation NGOs, multi-lateral agencies, and even the private sector. He then asked, "Where is the Snail Defense League? Where are the expeditions to undercollected areas? Where is the development of human resources in the malacologically-richest countries? Where are the coordinated efforts to get funds?" The implication seemed to be that we malacologists are all too busy making phylogenetic trees to notice that those little bags of character states or DNA we're trying to classifying are disappearing before our eyes.

Mr. Whitten's remarks were good-natured, and sweetened with lots of humor, and I don't think anybody in the room took offense. He does have a point. However, I take this opportunity to call Mr. Whitten's attention to the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society: http://ellipse.inhs.uiuc.edu/FMCS/ and to the 110 members of its "Snail Defense League" listed above. We've been "developing human resources" and mounting "coordinated efforts to get funds" for "expeditions to undercollected areas" since 1998, and have yet to find a single dollar of support. Perhaps this is my failing. Might Mr. Whitten be available to consult?

The main symposium presentations were as follows:
  • Winston Ponder - The research vs. conservation dilemma (Australian examples)
  • R.A.D. Cameron - Species/area in land snails
  • Philippe Bouchet - Marine Indo-Pacific diversity
  • Rob Cowie - Alien invasions (focus on Pacific island land snails)
  • Dick Neves - Propagation of North American unionids
  • Joe Heller - Using GIS on land snails in Israel
  • Thierry Backeljau - Genetics & conservation
These talks were followed by a general discussion session, during which both Dick Neves and I offered advertisements for the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society. Although primarily North American at this point, the FMCS does in fact solicit a worldwide membership. I had a couple inquiries later.

The primary concern, both in the main symposium presentations and in the "satellite" sessions that followed, seemed to be land snail conservation, with the unionaceans (especially Margaritifera) running a respectable second and marine faunas third. Freshwater gastropods came to the fore only in a presentation by Ioan Sirbu (Lucian Blaga University, Romania) on the severe human impacts suffered by the freshwaters of Transylvania and Banat. Among 51 gastropod and 22 bivalve species, 25 appear on the author's personal "Red List."

I don't intend to fuss about the relative absence of freshwater gastropods from this particular part of the Vienna program. I think the symposium as organized by Killeen and Seddon offered a fair reflection of world conservation consciousness as it flickers briefly upon the Mollusca.

There were plenty of papers and posters dealing with freshwater gastropods in the general sessions*. The symposium on the endemic molluscan faunas of the ancient lakes organized by Frank Wesselingh and Ellinor Michel was excellent. The program for the entire congress may be viewed at: http://www.univie.ac.at/WCM2001/ All the abstracts will also be published at the address above, organized alphabetically by author. (Currently authors A - E are on line, others "will follow in a few days.")

Thanks are due to the organizers of The Congress, especially Gerhard Steiner and Luitfried Salvini-Plawen of the University of Vienna, for their efforts in bringing a marvelous conference to fruition.

Keep in touch,

*However, I think Amy Wethington and I offered the only two presentations specifically featuring North American freshwater gastropods. We reported that Physa heterostropha, Physa integra, and Physa acuta are all the same species. Our manuscript is currently in review at Invertebrate Biology.

Friday, August 3, 2001

Banff Snail Blitz

To the FWGNA group,

I thought I'd take the opportunity to pass along some excellent news from Dwayne Lepitzki of Wildlife Systems Research in Banff. The "Banff Springs Snail," Physa johnsoni, is featured on the Government of Canada's 2001 species at risk poster!

The poster ("Big or Small, We Protect Them All") may be ordered from the website free of charge, even by those of us from south of the border. I ordered mine July 15 and was pleased to receive it today.

The reverse of the poster features a nice, popular write-up on P. johnsoni, including sections on its habitat, threats, and recovery plans. There's even a photo of Dwayne and Linda Lepitzki monitoring snail numbers.

As an added bonus, the text and photos from the back of the poster headline "Envirozine," Environment Canada's on-line newsmagazine for the week of August 3.

Congratulations are in order for Dwayne and all his colleagues for moving The Cause of freshwater gastropod conservation into the spotlight. Keep up the good work!


Thursday, June 28, 2001

No Great Honor

To the FWGNA group,

Yesterday's mail brought us formal notification that the proposal we wrote last fall to the NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program was not funded. Apparently the BS&I program reviewed 84 proposals this year*, of which only 10 - 15 will be funded, "few at the requested amount." It's no great shame to receive a rejection under such circumstances, but as Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) said, "It's no great honor, either."

The NSF reviewers offered many glowing comments about our proposed effort, but the bottom line was simply that they didn't feel we have the taxonomic expertise necessary. This is especially frustrating because the 109 of us currently involved in the FWGNA project represent just about all the taxonomic expertise available.

Perhaps we need to re-order our tasks. Taxonomic review was originally scheduled for Phase III of the FWGNA project, but perhaps we should move it to Phase I. An NSF "PEET" proposal (Project to Enhance Expertise in Taxonomy) might be the logical first step.

It is also possible that some of the activities we scheduled under Phase II could be moved forward. I'm happy to report that an NSF proposal submitted by Rob Guralnick and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Museum was funded by the Biological Databases and Informatics Program. Rob's project will see all CU collections (everything!) databased, geocoded, and available for GIS visualization by 2004. Rob and I are exploring how the Colorado infrastructure might be expanded.

I hope that all 109 of you understand that the FWGNA project is not some sort of monolithic enterprise being guided from the top down. You should all feel free to take initiatives of any sort. I was happy to write a letter of support for Rob's proposal, and I would be happy to get behind anybody else with an idea on how to get this important job done.

We definitely need to put our heads together. Please send me any comments or suggestions you may have. Current plans call for a major strategy session in Charleston in August, 2002, but perhaps we can meet earlier.

Keep in touch,

*Last year the NSF reviewed 72 proposals to the BS&I program, and about 18 were funded. This is a worrisome trend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Black Carp Update

To the FWGNA group,

As many of you are aware, concern has been growing about the importation and spread of fertile Black Carp since 1999, when these large, specialized molluscivores were first stocked in Mississippi catfish farms. See our previous post on this subject, 11Jan2000.

In February 2000, The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list Black Carp as "injurious" under the Lacey Act. That decision is still pending. But I thought I'd pass along a couple news tidbits that FMCS President Kevin Cummings recently posted Monday on the MOLLUSCA server.

First, I am alarmed to report that Jerry Rasmussen, who spearheaded the anti-Carp forces as chairman of MICRA, was removed last summer, and that MICRA's funding has been withdrawn by the USFWS. There's an informative article about this development recently published in "Fly Rod & Reel" magazine.

Second, there was a really nice news article entitled, "Will Black Carp Be the Next Zebra Mussel?" in the 13April issue of SCIENCE (v292:p203), with an accompanying editorial (v292:p169) comparing carp introduction to an infectious disease epidemic. Kevin Cummings was quoted prominently. Excellent report - congratulations to all involved.

Kevin suggests that we might wish to email the "Fly Rod & Reel" article to our congressmen, along with an appeal to re-instate Mr. Rasmussen. I don't suppose it would hurt!


Thursday, March 22, 2001

Gastropod Meeting in Pittsburgh

To the FWGNA group,

First I should acknowledge 11 new recruits to this list - all FMCS members who have recently indicated an interest in the gastropod committee, and/or attended their first FWGNA meeting last Tuesday evening. Welcome all! Our roster stands at 107 names.

We certainly had a marvelous three days in Pittsburgh. The largest fraction of the 220 registrants were state and federal natural resource managers, with a substantial contingent of aquatic biologists from research institutes large and small, private firms, and small consultancies. Academia was fairly well represented, and a fair number of graduate students were in attendance. The meeting was organized by Tom Proch and hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The 80 talks were organized into seven general topic areas over the three days - Biological Assessment (plenary), Status Surveys, Reproduction/Propagation/Juveniles, Life History & Ecology, Methods, Assessment & Conservation, and Evolution & Phylogenetics. There was also a nice poster session, with 40 contributions. Unionacean mussels were unquestionably the primary focus of the meeting, although there were a few gastropod talks, and even a bit of interest in pisidiid/sphaerid clams.

The Gastropod Committee met from about 5:30 - 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 13. Highlights included the appointment of Ken Brown as our new Co-Chair and a report from Paul Johnson on the National Strategy for Gastropod Conservation, as well as an update on the FWGNA project. Amy Wethington took excellent notes, which Ken kindly volunteered to edit and have typed. See appended.

Plans for two upcoming meetings were roughed out. Freshwater gastropods will be the focus of the AMS meeting in Charleston, August 2002. Paul hopes to have a conservation strategy presented and discussed at that time. A workshop at the FWS Conservation and Training Center in Sheperdstown, possibly in connection with a national reference collection of freshwater gastropods, may also be on the horizon.

Details regarding all these matters depend on the outcome of our most recent NSF proposal, currently still under review. We'll keep you posted!


--------[Begin minutes, FMCS Gastropod meeting]----------

FMCS Gastropod Committee
Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
March 14, 2001

Attending: Rob Dillon (chair), Amy Wethington (sec.), Ken Brown, Tamara Anderson, Jayne Brim Box, Janet Butler, Betty Crump, Ryan Evans, Jeff Garner, Paul Hartfield, Marilyn Hemker, Mark Hove, Paul Johnson, Jacquie Lee, Russ Minton, Malcolm Pierson, Dusty Proctor, Doug Smith, Brian Watson, Charles Watson, Tom Watters, Jeri Wood.

Administrative matters - Rob Dillon was nominated and elected as committee chairperson and Ken Brown was appointed as co-chairperson.

National Strategy for Gastropod Conservation - Paul Johnson described the progress to date on the national strategy for freshwater gastropod conservation. The strategy will incorporate a series of papers given at the Chattanooga meeting, along with a conservation strategy authored and edited by the presenters. Paul hopes to have the strategy finished soon, and plans a presentation and discussion group at the AMS meetings in Charleston in 2002. Paul noted that the strategy will be loosely based on similar strategy papers developed for freshwater fish and mussels, but will be more concise. Rob Dillon encouraged everyone to attend the AMS meetings in Charleston on August 3 - 7, 2002. Lodging will be available at $85 in hotels, or at $20-25 in the dorms. Palmetto bugs will be provided free of charge.

Freshwater Gastropods of North America Project - Rob Dillon summarized the status of this project, and the NSF grant proposal written to fund it. The project, initiated in 1998, is designed in three phases. The first phase involves an inventory of the gastropod lots at the 10 major North American museums, that have approximately 90% of our snail holdings. The NSF proposal involves ten co-PI's, each of whom will have specific responsibilities for museum work. The data will be entered into an electronic data base, a demo of which is available at Rob's College of Charleston web site. Data fields will include precise localities, etc. The proposal also includes the building of a national reference collection including lots from all described species in North America. This collection may be housed at the USFWS National Conservation and Training Center in Sheperdstown. The reference collection will prove valuable to investigators as well as providing a way to check the validity of lots in existing museum collections. If the proposal is not funded, Paul Johnson suggested a workshop at the AMS meetings involving a large group of malacologists to re-design the proposal, and a professional mediator to help arbitrate the changes so that future proposals would have higher chances of success. Paul Hartfield pointed out that there is still a lot of disagreement about proper classification, especially in groups like the pleurocerids.

Phase II of the project will involve an extensive field survey that will emphasize geographic regions that are not well covered in museums, or where losses in diversity have occurred. A renewal from NSF will also fund this work, with a group of co-PI's responsible for specific geographic regions, and using subcontractors or students to do most of the field work. Doug Smith pointed out that a specific protocol is needed for collections. Tissues cannot be preserved in formalin if DNA work will be necessary, etc. Paul Johnson requested that Doug develop such a protocol, and Doug agreed. Doug will forward the protocol to Paul or Rob, and requests suggestions as to the specifics that different workers (e.g., anatomists, biochemists) will need. Rob will send material from a book by Charles Sturm on collecting snails to Doug. Proper field notes with precise location, habitat type, abundance, size distribution, etc. will also be necessary. A workshop for proper collection and preservation methods would be a good idea for the next AMS meetings.

Phase III of the project will be a monograph for all North American species. The monograph will have several pages per species with descriptions, range maps and recommendations for conservation. The monograph will also be in an online version eventually. Jayne Brim Box noted she is building a data base of snails in western states and provided some data on diversity in each state. It was also suggested that we use school children to help collect data, or use collections or databases compiled by state agencies. Benefits would involve harvesting a lot of information at a relatively small price, although concerns were voiced about how to standardize such collections, or make sure voucher specimens were available. Participants were urged to contact Rob Dillon if they have additional suggestions for the project.

The meeting was adjourned.