Mapping and modeling the distribution and abundance of unionid mussels in a large coastal plain river
The ultimate goal of this project is to develop spatially explicit models of the distribution and abundance of freshwater mussels that inhabit the Apalachicola River, the largest river (by discharge) in the state of Florida. To do so we are taking a novel approach that involves mapping and classifying the entire wetted channel of the river into mesohabitats units using sonar imagery, then quantitatively sampling mussels from each mesohabitat class using a GRTS sampling design that ensures that all areas of this murky river will be searched for mussels. Sonar-based map layers provide a robust data set used to examine habitat associations and develop predictive models of mussel distribution throughout the river. Preliminary findings indicate that this approach will provide a new and unique perspective on both the habitat occupied by mussels, and their respective population abundances at the landscape scale. Beyond mussels, map layers are expected to provide information relevant to research and management of a variety of resident organisms (e.g., Gulf sturgeon), in addition to providing a highly detailed snapshot of the contemporary, physical habitat conditions of this culturally important river system.
Collaborators: Reuben Smit (Auburn University Graduate Assistant), Steve Sammons and Jim Stoekel (Auburn University faculty advisors), and Mike Gangloff (Appalachian State University faculty advisor)