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The southeastern United States is a valuable repository of aquatic biological diversity. Alabama has a particularly rich biodiversity, ranking first among all the states in mussel species and amongst the highest in gastropod and crayfish species. Unfortunately, population sizes and species diversity in the southeast (including Alabama) are undergoing significant, long term declines. This represents a great loss to the natural resources of the state and region. There is an urgent need to preserve Alabama's aquatic biodiversity both for its own sake and for the benefit of aquaculture. While poor farming practices can contribute to declines of native populations, improved practices can aid in conservation. In turn, native biodiversity can be a great benefit to the agricultural industry via ecological services and a source of new agricultural products. Fortunately, increasing focus is being placed on restoring native biodiversity, developing sustainable agricultural practices, and harnessing bioddiversity for the wide variety of environmental and economic benefits a healthy repository of species can provide. Over the next 5 years, I plan to continue my research program to develop and promote positive feedbacks between agriculture and conservation. Main Goals/Objectives are as follows:1) Interactions among anthropogenic inputs and aquatic communities. Examples include, but are not limited to:a. Effects of agricultural inputs (sediments, nutrients, herbicides) on freshwater mussel and crayfish physiology and population ecology.b. Impacts of mussels and crayfish on water quality parameters (suspended sediments, algal blooms, mercury, etc.) in agricultural systems such as aquacuture ponds.2) Development of new aquaculture products utilizing native species.3) Adaptation and development/refinemen of techniques, tools, and approaches that can be applied to both aquaculture and conservation. Examples include but are not limited to:a. Gamete cryopreservation techniques developed for aquaculture that may be applied to crayfish and mussel conservation.b. Further development and validation of techniques to acurately age crustaceans for aquaculture and conservation purposes.c. Development and evaluation of Aerobic Scope as a tool to address thermal tolerance issues in aquaculture and conservation.d. Application of aquaculture production techniques and knowledge to study and develop control techniques for invasive species such as redswamp crayfish.

Stoeckel, J.
Auburn University
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