Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Mussel Biologist Wins Prestigious Science Award
BY KATIE STEIGER-MEISTER, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS REGIONAL OFFICE
Nathan Eckert, Mussel Propagation Biologist at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) was awarded the 2014 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence from Service Director Dan Ashe. Considered one of the highest honorary awards in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the award recognized Nathan for pursuit of applied conservation science methods that has led to extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation.
Nathan has dedicated his professional career to the conservation of freshwater mussels. The extraordinary results of his work include mussel culture techniques that allow for the mass production of young mussels. With Nathan's help, Genoa NFH has produced 14.7 million mussels spanning 17 species. He has also successfully grown fawnsfoot and pistolgrip mussels, previously never cultured by the Service. Additionally, Nathan has published a host study for the cylindrical papershell, an Iowa state listed species, which identifies new hosts for future propagation efforts. His expertise is also being used by researchers at the Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center who are looking for ways to kill invasive zebra mussels and Asian carp without harming native mussel populations. “The fact that I've been selected for an award named after Rachel Carson, a pioneer in this field, is very humbling,” said Eckert in response to receiving the award. “If anything, I feel like this recognition means that now I need to do exceptional work and prove that the accolades were deserved.”
A champion for mussel research and recovery, Nathan’s work focuses on a commonly overlooked group of animals. Well hidden in rivers and streambeds, mussels are silently falling prey to pollution and invasive animals. More than half of the Midwest Region’s 78 mussel species are in danger of extinction. An example of the profound impact an individual can have on conservation efforts, his work has directly resulted in the release of more than 50,000 threatened or endangered mussels into waterways in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
Nathan's enthusiasm for mussel research is matched by his commitment to working with partners. He commonly coordinates recovery efforts with federal, state and local partners. Considered an expert in his field when it comes to mussel identification, propagation biology and freshwater mussel life history, he serves as a valuable resource for his colleagues.
Genoa NFH congratulates all of this year's award recipients and we look forward to their continued scientific contributions and future achievements.