It is a New Year and there is a new lab publication out! Here we show how freshwater mussel excretion and biodeposition influences both green and brown food webs. Using mesocosm experiments here at UA, we assessed how three species of freshwater mussels that occupy three different phylogenetic tribes influenced benthic algal accrual, ecosystem metabolism, cotton strip decomposition, leaf litter decomposition, and litter-associated fungal biomass. The results suggest that nutrient regeneration by mussels most strongly regulates green food webs, with some impacts to brown food webs, suggesting that consumers have interactive effects on microbial functioning in freshwaters. Check out the full publication!
With this new year, there is so much to do and everyone is looking forward to getting back to work!
Two new exciting articles on freshwater mussels are now in their typeset forms online. The paper recently published in Ecology highlights data suggesting that tissue stoichiometry may be driven in response to evolutionary history within a single subfamily radiation of unionid mussels. The Journal of Molluscan studies article shows that while the digestive microbiome of mussels is distinct in comparison to the environment, the environment strongly regulates the microbiome that is maintained by the unionid mussel host.
I am excited to share that my NSF CAREER proposal was funded! This $1.1M project will examine the linkages between species diversity and ecological function in the very locally abundant and diverse group of freshwater mussels. The project will employ a combination of observational, experimental, and modeling approaches. With this the lab will also conduct workshops and organize and assist with day camps at the Alabama Natural History Museum. To learn more about the project, check out the NSF website and the Biological Sciences News.
Congratulations to Irene! Her poster presentation at the Society for Freshwater Science's Summer of Science was awarded runner up among graduate students in the Basic Science category. Not only did she receive an award, but she also will receive reimbursement for her registration fee for the 2021 SFS Annual meeting! Looking forward to seeing everyone in person again in Philadelphia! Fingers crossed!
There are two new articles in early view out from the Atkinson lab group! An article published in Freshwater Science (presents length-dry mass relationships to predict biomass of unionid freshwater mussels. This paper provides species-, tribe-, and family- level scaling equations as well as a R toolkit for outputting biomass estimates at each level of taxonomic resolution. Also, Brian first-authored an article that shows that feral pigs selectively feed on particular species of mussels, particularly pig toes (Fusconaia cerina). While this was not a planned study, it provides useful insights on how this invasive species may impact aquatic communities.
We all could use some good news right now! Megan Davis, a M.S. student in the lab, received the prestigious E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Graduate Fellowship! Her work aims to examine the differential roles of native mussels and Corbicula and their microbial gut communities. She has already been very active here in her first semester running a mesocosm experiment. We hope it it safe to get back to it soon as there are many samples that could be analyzed!
The Atkinson lab traveled to Athens, Georgia this past weekend to visit the Capps Lab at the University of Georgia (UGA) for the annual ATKAPPS Exchange. Atkinson lab members met with faculty from the School of Ecology and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at UGA to discuss their research as well as a behind the scenes tour of the Georgia Natural History Museum. We completed the weekend with a party at the Capps house on Friday night and a late morning walk at the Georgia Botanical Gardens! Fun time seeing and meeting colleagues! Roll Dawgs!
Zach Nickerson's (former MS student) first thesis chapter is now available online and published in Biogeochemistry. This study highlights the functional roles of three species of freshwater mussels in facilitating the removal of nitrogen from aquatic ecosystems via the processes of denitrification and anammox. Specifically, through their excretion, mussels enhanced ambient nitrogen removal and their biodeposits enhanced potential nitrogen removal. This is one of the first studies to link animal functional traits to nitrogen removal and further highlights the role of this endangered faunal group.
Dan Knapp successfully defended his thesis, Development and life-history traits affect larval anuran stoichiometry and role in wetland ecosystem nutrient storage on 10/24/2019. His thesis examines tissue stoichiometry in several species of tadpoles as they undergo development and uses those data to scale nutrient storage across several wetlands. Several faculty and students attended the public portion of Dan's defense and he survived questions from Drs. Lora Smith, Jon Benstead, and Carla. Great work Dan! Can't wait to see the article to come.
Dan drove up from the Jones Ecological Research Center to come present on his master's research in the Department of Biological Sciences seminar series at the University of Alabama. Dan conducted a practice talk Thursday night at Druid City Brewing Company with the lab group and visitors from University of Mississippi. Same talk, but slightly different atmosphere. Dan's research is on the role of life history and developmental traits on larval anuran stoichiometry and he will be defending his master's in only a couple of weeks!
Dr. Carla L. Atkinson
My life is like a float trip!