Dr. Neil B. Ford, Ph.D., Director
Center for Environment, Biodiversity and Conservation
My primary research interest in the last 5 years has been the study of the ecology of Unionid mussels in the rivers of east Texas. These organisms are important drivers of freshwater ecosystems both as the major filter feeders and as food for other species. Freshwater mussels are extremely diverse in the United States with over 300 species and most species are imperiled to some degree and a number are extinct. My work revolves around 6 threatened species and the habitat factors that are important to protecting them. My students and I have surveyed the Sabine, Neches, Cypress Creek, Sulphur and Trinity River basins and using the program MaxEnt have mapped the suitable habitat of the Texas Pigtoe, Triangle Pigtoe, Louisiana Pigtoe, Southern Hickorynut, Sandbank Pocketbook and Texas Heelsplitter. The studies are supported by grants from Texas Parks and Wildlife department, U. S. Fish and Wildlife service, Texas department of Transportation and the Texas Comptroller.
Snake reproductive ecology
I have several studies ongoing with snakes. My laboratory (Ophidian Research Colony) studies the role of nutrition in regulating reproductive traits in snakes. Foraging success for snakes is variable from year to year relative to weather and understanding how this impacts reproduction is important to know to predict how change in climate and other factors may influence population growth and viability for a species. I also am a Co-principal investigator for a Texas Comptroller grant studying the massasauga rattlesnake. This snake is rapidly declining due to habitat loss and may need to be listed as threatened by the USFW service. My students are radiotracking individual massasaugas at Matador Wildlife management area so we can model the habitat requirements for the species. We will then map the suitable habitat available across the state using the program MaxEnt.