Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Georgia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Georgia Project

Evaluation of Contaminant Stressors to Endangered and At-Risk Freshwater Mussel Health in the Conasauga River Basin

August 2022 - May 2024


Participating Agencies

  • USFWS Georgia Ecological Field Office SSP
  • USFWS Georgia Ecological FIeld Office SSP

The Conasauga River, in southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia, is a biodiversity hotspot for fishes and freshwater mussels. Some of these species are rare, at-risk, or listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Additionally, two species of mussels have been characterized as extinct from the basin. We propose a collaborative multiyear research study to evaluate the threat of contaminants on freshwater mussels in the Conasauga River. This study will examine the use of sediment and in situ water exposures to non-point source pollutants to further understand toxicant effects on juvenile freshwater mussels. We intend to collect information that will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Georgia Ecological Services Field Office prioritize conservation or management actions to support freshwater mussels. Further, data collected on the effects of contaminants on mussel growth and survival could be used in population models to evaluate population-level effects in contaminated vs non-contaminated sites. More broadly, such results may improve understanding of the potential effects of non-point-source pollution on freshwater mussels.