Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Biologist Nationally Recognized for Endangered Species Conservation

May 17, 2019

Contact(s):

John Schmidt, FWS, 304-636-6586 x 16, 304-904-8611 work cell, or john_schmidt@fws.gov

Scott Warner, WVDNR, 304-558-2771 or scott.a.warner@wv.gov


West Virginia state biologist Janet Clayton holds a spectaclecase freshwater mussel.

West Virginia state biologist Janet Clayton holds a spectaclecase freshwater mussel. Credit: WVDNR
Higher Quality Version of Image

Elkins, WV.— On Endangered Species Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates the contributions and achievements of our nationally recognized Recovery Champions. These dedicated individuals have devoted themselves to recovering endangered and threatened animals and plants.

Janet Clayton has been selected as a 2018 Recovery Champion for her efforts in West Virginia. Clayton is Mussel Program Leader at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and is widely recognized as an expert on freshwater mussels.

“Janet’s knowledge, leadership, and passion for the conservation of endangered freshwater mussels helped foster highly successful partnerships committed to the recovery of these species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “She has taught others about the importance of these species and inspired them to support recovery efforts.”

Through her efforts, two federally endangered mussels have been reintroduced into West Virginia, and populations of five others have improved. Clayton has work on the pink mucket, fanshell, clubshell, northern riffleshell, purple cat’s paw, rayed bean, and spectaclecase freshwater mussel species. 

Clayton has worked to systematically survey streams throughout West Virginia to locate new populations of these listed species, established programs to regularly monitor their status, and developed standardized protocols to assist others in conducting accurate and reliable surveys. She also worked to expand and apply these techniques to other states and regions resulting in significant improvements to the status of freshwater mussels throughout the Ohio River basin.

Clayton then tirelessly worked with partners to develop and implement new methods of protecting and restoring mussel populations.  She coordinated the collection of samples to help develop eDNA techniques to identify streams where listed mussels are present, and has braved harsh weather to gather broodstock to assist with captive propagation efforts.  These mussels were then used to help restore populations throughout the Ohio River basin.

Her restoration methods are scientifically rigorous, and included addressing proper genetics management, developing release protocols to increase survivorship, quantitative pre- and post-restoration monitoring, and the application of new techniques to mark and identify mussels such as using PIT tag reading equipment in deep water with divers.

Additionally, Clayton has used her expertise to teach others about the importance of these species and inspired them to support their recovery. Clayton assists with the NCTC Conservation Biology of Freshwater Mussels class and also developed and teaches a week-long training class in the ecology and identification of freshwater mussels in West Virginia. She also helped to expand the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society into an international organization dedicated to the protection of mussel species. The conservation success of the West Virginia mussel program has been a model and an inspiration to our partners in conservation.

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007 the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

For photos and information about the 2018 Recovery Champions, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html


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