Grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department funds research of invasive species
TEMPLE, Texas (Jan. 20, 2022) – Temple College faculty and student researchers are studying invasive zebra mussel populations at area lakes, including Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow Lake, to determine whether the populations decline naturally over time.
The study, which is funded by a $48,151 research grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, began in fall 2021 and will continue into the fall of 2022. Students led by Dr. Jason Locklin, professor and chair of Temple College’s Biology Department, have been collecting mussels from the lakes and studying population density, mussel size and body condition.
In October, researchers placed plates (collection devices) at key locations throughout the lakes. Locklin and his students have been returning regularly to collect the mussels that have affixed themselves to those plates and take them to the Temple College lab where they are sorted and documented.
“The results of this work will provide additional lake management and zebra mussel mitigation strategy insights for lake managers as well as municipalities and industry that rely on lakes and waterways across the state and southern regions of North America,” Locklin said.
Locklin said research opportunities like this for undergraduate students not only allow them to test the waters for career options and graduate programs, but it also helps to connect those concepts discussed in classes on campus with those biological processes and concepts in the real world.
“This is where students get that ‘ah ha’ moment – several of them actually – which helps to further cement those concepts and gives them the skills necessary to pursue additional research questions and the tools they need to answer them,” the professor said. “Undergraduate research is a phenomenal opportunity that many of us took advantage of when we were undergraduate students. Of course, many of those opportunities are only available at four-year colleges and universities; so having this available to our Temple College students really is unique.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife funded the research as part of its Aquatic Invasive Species Research Grant program. Zebra mussels were one of two “top priority species” identified for study.
Knowing if and when mussel populations are likely to decline could provide valuable information to agencies responsible for managing the state’s lakes and waterways.
“As zebra mussels continue to move southward, they encounter many challenges associated with elevated thermal regimes that influence metabolic and feeding behavior,” Locklin said. “This work will provide more information that will likely be used when developing and implementing zebra mussel mitigation and management strategies in those infested lakes. We are fortunate to be funded by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department so that these questions can be addressed and our students can be part of the process.”
Locklin and his students have been studying zebra mussels since 2015. To date, 13 students have worked on the research in some capacity. Their research has led to eight presentations at scientific conferences. In 2020, they published their 2015-2016 study from Lake Belton in the international journal Aquatic Invasions and are currently preparing a second publication from a 2019-2020 study from both Central Texas lakes.
The research has involved collaboration with biology researchers from Texas State University, The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M University - Central Texas. Temple College has previously received grants from the Temple Health & Bioscience District and the Texas Academy of Science to fund the zebra mussel research.
Learn more about Temple College’s programs by visiting the Biology Department’s website.