What's New?

Page last updated
15 December 2011

What's New with the MUSSELp?

The highlights of 2011.


27 November-8 December 2011 -- MUSSELp at the Molluscan Forum Young Systematists' Fora. Bama biology graduate student John Pfeiffer presented some recent phylogenetic results at meetings in London, and he captured specimen records for SE Asian species.

At the Young Systematists' Forum, John presented an update of his work on the utility of mitochondrial data for recovering the phylogeny of the genus Lamprotula. Click here to see a previous version of that poster.

John also particapated in the 14th Molluscan Forum, convened by the Malacological Society of London. Based on a combined dataset of molecular and morphological characters, presented his talk, "Evolution of asymmetrical glochidia in the Unionidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia)."

While he was across the pond, John took the opportunity to photograph specimen records for tropical Asian freshwater mussels. Those images will eventually make their way into the MUSSEL Project Database. That research included not only shuffling through the shells but also examination of preserved soft parts.

John Pfeiffer's research and participation in these meetings were funded by the University of Alabama Department of Biological Sciences and Graduate School, the American Malacological Society and the National Science Foundation.


13 June-27 July 2011 -- A Busy Summer for the MUSSELp. Our frenetic summer recently culminated at the annual meeting of the American Malacological Society. KSC, DLG, INHS collaborator Jeremy Tiemann, and Bama graduate student John Pfeiffer converged on Duquesne University to mingle with our fellow malacologists and provide a little freshwater bivalve perspective to a gathering dominated by marine folks.

Daniel Graf, John Pfeiffer and Kevin Cummings at the 2011 AMS meeting in Pittsburgh.

DLG covered the freshwater bivalves for the opening symposium on The Great Unanswered Questions in malacology. The scope of his lecture, “The Global Diversity of Freshwater Bivalves,” was not limited to the Unionoida but also reviewed the extent of our knowledge on the phylogeny of sphaeriids, cyrenids and other freshwater bivalves as well. KSC and Jeremy participated in a symposium on the history of malacology with their talk, “The Illinois Natural History Survey / University of Illinois Museum of Natural History Mollusk Collection.” As the big finale to the conference, John Pfeiffer won the award for best student poster for his contribution, “Polyphyly of the freshwater mussel genus Lamprotula (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionidae).” These presentations were all well received, and it was great to meet the newer members of the AMS and see so many old friends.

John Pfeiffer photographing specimens at the ANSP.Earlier in the summer, John Pfeiffer traveled to Philadelphia to study Asian freshwater mussels at the Academy of Natural Sciences. John’s research was funded by a generous Jessup Fellowship from the ANSP, and over the course of two weeks, John capture lots of specimen and literature data for the MUSSEL Project. Click here to read John’s report on his adventure in the City of Brotherly Love.

While John was doing that, KSC, Jeremy Tiemann, Brandon Creek and Josh Sherwood collected Lampsilis Cardium for the BivAToL project.

Prime mussel spot in the Great Corn Desert.
Prime mussel spot in the Great Corn Desert.


Kevin Cummings, Jeremy Tiemann and Brandon Creek at the FMNH.2-3 May 2011 -- Gathering Specimen Data from the FMNH. KSC, Jeremy Tiemann and Brandon Creek photographed southeast Asian unionids for the MUSSELp at the Field Museum in Chicago. In all, 234 freshwater mussel were digitally photographed and added to the MUSSELpdb. In addition, KSC et al. collected data on freshwater gastropods -- specifically lymnaeids, viviparids and pleurocerids.


Daniel Graf and Kevin Cummings at the 2011 meeting of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society.15 April 2011 -- Spreading the Love Around. DLG and KSC attended the biennial meeting of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society in Louisville, and John Pfeiffer went to SEEC at Auburn University.

At FMCS we presented a talk entitled, "Patterns of Freshwater Mussel Richness and Endemism in Africa and Madagascar." That study presented the hotspots of unionoid diversity in the Afrotropics based upon comprehensive museum sampling. A manuscript associated with this work is currently in revision. When it is finally published, more images and data will be available on this web site.

Last month, John Pfeiffer gave his first talk as a Bama grad student, "Polyphyly of the freshwater mussel genus Lamprotula (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionidae)." The occasion was the Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference at Auburn. John has been re-analyzing a published dataset on the phylogenetic relationships of Lamprotula by incorporating some novel sequences. Watch this site for more information as this project evolves.

John Pfeiffer at the Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference at Auburn.
John Pfeiffer at the Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference at Auburn.

Both studies were funded by the National Sciences Foundation.

22 March 2011 -- Spring Term 2011: Expanding the Bama Lab and the MUSSELpdb. Spring term has been busy for the MUSSELp so far. John Pfeiffer joined the Graf Lab at the University of Alabama to work on mussel systematics, Sarah Wofford continued working in the lab in several important capacities, and the project expanded further into SE Asian mussels.

Graduate student John Pfeiffer finished his undergraduate studies at Northern Michigan University last spring, and now he is doing research the family-level relationships of freshwater mussels for the Bivalve Assembling the Tree of Life Project. So far, John has been getting up to speed on lab protocols, and he has started generating DNA sequences and studying mussel morphology. Watch this space for interesting results from John's work.

Undergraduate Sarah Wofford has been working in a curatorial capacity this term, moving dry mussel bodies in the ultracold freezer to ethanol-filled cryotubes. It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. This will better protect the mussel tissues inherited by DLG and open up A LOT of space for future specimen storage. Sarah also worked up the specimen images that DLG captured in Paris last fall.

For Spring Break, there was no break. John and DLG made a whirlwind trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology in Ann Arbor to capture specimen data in that collection for tropical SE Asian freshwater mussels. Two days of driving, two days of back-aching collections work, and almost 950 photographs! Thanks to our friends in the Mollusk Division at the UMMZ for being so accommodating.


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