Current: Species Distribution Models of Mussels in the Great Lakes

In the Great Lakes region, native freshwater mussels (or unionids) have seen dramatic population declines due to habitat degradation and invasive species. Two invasive species, the Zebra and Quagga Mussels, have had particularly deleterious effects on native unionid populations. However, there is still hope! Refuge areas with intact unionid assemblages have been found in Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Now, my dissertation project aims to determine if any unionid populations remain in the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers (which are a part of the Lake Huron-Erie corridor) and use remnant population presence data to create a unionid distribution model that will hopefully predict other potential refuge areas in large rivers.

At the same time, we are also surveying for invasive mussels (Zebra and Quagga) populations in each river and will create species distribution models based on their presence. These models will hopefully allow us to predict areas that have not been as heavily impacted and will assist further with the conservation of unionid habitat.

Current: Native, Freshwater Mussel Surveys

In addition to my dissertation project, I also assist with SCUBA and snorkel surveys for multiple unionid species for various projects within the Zanatta and Woolnough labs. Shown above are the Purple Wartyback (left) and the Threehorn Wartyback (right), as well as a collection of Wabash and Round Pigtoes (middle).

Current: Side Projects

Assessing snail populations and species composition in the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers

Comparing two different methods for estimating dreissenid densities from PONAR sediment grabs

Microscopy sediment analysis using Stream and ImageJ to quantify microscopic sediment sizes in the Detroit River

Past: Understanding Red Fillet Syndrome in Channel Catfish in Northeastern Mississippi

For my master's thesis, I assessed the prevalence of red fillet syndrome in the Channel Catfish aquaculture industry and investigated potential causes of the disease. My thesis research had four chapters:

1. Comprehensive water quality analysis of catfish ponds. Including pre-harvest period to seining period, to transport to the processing plant.

2. Quantification of red fillet in the catfish industry. By counting and weighing reject fillets for a year, we quantified 2 kinds of red fillet in catfish: punctured and blotchy.

3. To target possible causes of red fillet, we exposed Channel Catfish to different poor water quality conditions for 12 hours and measured their physiological response.

4. In addition to varying water quality conditions, we also injected Channel Catfish with the bacteria Aeromonas sobria and measured their physiological response.

Past: Out-of-Season Spawning of White Crappie

Before I began my thesis on red fillet in Channel Catfish, I helped finish another graduate student's thesis work on artificially spawning White Crappie. We analyzed the effect of additional hormone injections on out-of-season spawning success as well as the vitality of White Crappie sperm using different cryopreservation techniques.