Center for Environment, Biodiversity and Conservation
Freshwater mussels. Faculty involved: Banta, Ford, Kambhampati, Placyk, L. Williams,
Williams. A large number of freshwater mussels are endangered or threatened in the United States and East Texas rivers are home of several of these. Faculty in the department have been studying various aspects of mussels using a variety of tools and approaches. The investigations include collection of basic distributional data, population census, biotic and abiotic factors associated with mussel distribution, fish hosts of immature mussels, DNA barcoding of individual species, environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to detect presence of individual mussel species, and predictive modeling of mussel niches.
Neches River Rose Mallow. Faculty involved: Drs. Banta, Placyk, Williams. The Neches River Rose Mallow is an endangered plant species that is native to the East Texas region. The plant is federally listed as an endangered species is known to occur only in three wetlands in East Texas. Many different factors have contributed to the endangerment of the plant, including habitat destruction, herbicide usage, timber harvesting, and insect herbivory. The plant is difficult to distinguish from other closely related species in the region; therefore, the faculty involved are developing a reliable, DNA based method for identifying the plants. This will then allow them to estimate population size, map its distribution and develop predictive niche models, which can be used to identify other locations of its occurrence and potential habitats into which the plant can be introduced.
Crayfish. Faculty involved: Drs. L. Williams, M. Williams, Ford, Kambhampati,. East Texas is home to several crayfish species, some of which are threatened or endangered; several are under consideration by the Federal government for possible listing. Research on crayfish is focused on seven crayfish species. Basic information, such as distribution, population size, age structure, genetic variation, habitat requirements, etc., is lacking for many of the crayfish in Texas and elsewhere. We are undertaking fundamental studies on Texas crayfish and provide this information to Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Box turtles. Faculty involved: Dr. Placyk, Koukl. Box turtles are a complex of species and subspecies, native to the United States and Mexico, many of which are highly threatened. There is uncertainty regarding the taxonomic status of many subspecies that are currently recognized. Furthermore, much remains unknown about their biology. Dr. Placyk and his students have been studying the phylogenetic and conservation genetics of species native to Texas to better understand their taxonomic species, population parameters, and genetic make-up.