2020 June

Pacific Northwest Native Freshwater Mussel Workgroup

June 17, 2020; 10:00 – 12:00 Pacific Time


Kevin Aitkin (USFWS), Emilie Blevins (Xerces), Hope Rieden (Chehalis Tribe), Al Smith, Patty Morrison, Sarina Jepsen, Liz Bockstiegel (WDFW), Michele Weaver (ODFW), Kate Holcomb (UDWR), Kris Schiedel (HRSWCD), Monica Blanchard (WDFW), Cynthia Tait, Celeste Searles Mazzacano (CASM Environmental), Claire Williamson (WDFW), Alexa Maine (CTUIR), Teal Waterstrat (USFWS)


Meeting Agenda

  1. Emilie Blevins, Xerces Society— welcome and introductions
    1. Background and information on the workgroup and resources for new listserv subscribers

Emilie shared the following information for new members:

The Pacific Northwest Native Freshwater Mussel Workgroup is an email listserv and workgroup covering topics related to native freshwater mussels in western North America. The workgroup was established to ensure that freshwater mussel research, management, and educational activities are coordinated, prioritized, and are consistent with identified information needs. You can learn more about the workgroup and access information and resources by visiting the website (https://pnwmussels.org/), checking out our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MusselsPNW), and sharing mussel observations through our iNaturalist project (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/freshwater-mussels-of-the-western-u-s). We have 220 workgroup members. It was established in 2003. Past chairs include:

Jen Stone, USFWS: 2003
Al Smith, ODFW (retired): 2004-2006
Sarina Jepsen, Xerces: 2007-2009
Shelly Miller, ODFW: 2010-2013
Celeste Searles Mazzacano, Xerces: 2014-2017
Emilie Blevins, Xerces: 2018-present

Benefits of Connecting with the Workgroup
The workgroup provides a forum for communication and sharing of information and resources. The workgroup is active, including scheduling quarterly phone calls for discussion, sharing relevant and timely information via listserv postings, and periodically convening symposia and special sessions at scientific meetings. With support from the chair, products can be used and developed under the name of the workgroup if they meet the goals and objectives of the group and charter. The current workgroup chair is Emilie Blevins ([email protected]). Teal Waterstrat manages the workgroup’s Facebook account and Website. Members of the 2020 Symposium Planning Committee include Emilie Blevins, Teal Waterstrat, Alexa Maine, Patty Morrison, Kevin Aitkin, Kate Holcomb, and Michele Weaver.

As a workgroup (listserv) member, you are subscribed to receive emails from the group listserv. This service is used to facilitate information sharing and discussion and serves as the main method of communication among workgroup members. To post public messages or to respond publicly to other workgroup members, you may send an email to [email protected] or reply directly to a thread. If you wish to reply privately to a workgroup member, be sure to replace “[email protected]” with the intended recipient’s email address when selecting the “reply” option. To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, you may send an email to [email protected].

Several new members introduced themselves. Kris is new to the group and freshwater mussels but has been in fisheries >20 years. She noted that she is surprised she has never heard of them and interested in how she can learn more and incorporate them into her work. Monica is an assistant district fish bio and has encountered mussels frequently. Al mentioned Cynthia was also a founding member if not a chair. He commented that many people in the workgroup started not knowing anything about mussels and have developed expertise.

  1. Emilie Blevins, Xerces Society— PNW Mussel Workgroup transition to FMCS Western Chapter

Emilie provided the following information to update members on activities related to transitioning the mussel workgroup to an FMCS affiliate. FMCS has been around since 1992. 681 members on the mailing list and 404 active members, covers snails and freshwater  mussels, manage species names lists, coordinate scientific meetings and workshops. In 2016, our membership initiated a discussion of the workgroup becoming an affiliate of FMCS.  There is also interest by European FMCS members in being recognized as a subgroup. Activities by the FMCS ad hoc committee to investigate this included interviews with AFS- Deputy Executive Director Dan Cassidy, Western Division-Daniel Dauwalter, IALE North America President Rob Scheller, a nonprofit lawyer, and representatives of 4 other regional groups.

Other topics discussed related to this work included the possibility of becoming an FMCS member with registration to the (now-postponed) Symposium and differentiation between listserv and FMCS membership (potential availability of scholarships and grants). Emilie asked for feedback from workgroup members. Cynthia asked about fees and Celeste asked if membership dollars would come back to the PNW affiliate. Emilie answered that these are specifics that we can negotiate with FMCS so that it is beneficial to all parties. AFS does require membership fees, but chapters do receive a portion of funds back to their membership, and this is a model we could follow.

Sarina asked about FMCS benefits from the PNW mussel workgroup joining. She wondered if we could have that association without becoming an affiliate. Patty mentioned that we have liaisons now but no board representation. Emilie discussed that we would not be able to direct more FMCS resources to the PNW without something more formal. Al mentioned that he thinks the AFS Oregon chapter is great and the PNW would benefit from something similar.

Cynthia asked if FMCS have any affiliates yet. Emilie said no, so we can really identify how to make it mutually beneficial. Celeste said this was an idea put out by the workgroup, not the chair. Kevin said he thinks it is time to move to the next level. Al agrees it is time to upgrade, and money has always been an issue to do projects. Kevin said we should still try to get information out to others. Idea for the PNW workgroup was presented in 2003 and there has been more interest. It has been nearly 20 years. People interested in mussels and working for highway departments- that never happened before.

Michele Weaver pointed out that there are many opportunities for non-member AFS people to participate, such as in meetings. Emilie brought up a proposal for having a dues-paying minimum of 6 PNW members. Al and Kevin said no problem. Cynthia asked about Oregon AFS dues- Michele said chapter membership for Oregon is $20, for AFS national itis more. Michele also said Montana AFS offers an affiliate membership that does not require you to become a national member.

Patty thinks we need to reduce this to writing and have people weigh in on options. Al thinks we should elucidate the background for how we got to that point. Cynthia asked if we are agreeing with how we become an affiliate and decide specifics later. Emilie said we are at the point of agreeing on the specifics. Emilie will write this up and see what input we get. Share that feedback with PNW workgroup members and discuss at the next call. Cynthia said she thought the name change from PNW to Western would be simple, as we’ve been including members from other geographies for years. Kate said we could also be the “Western Chapter of FMCS.” Cynthia may want to make it clear that it does not include east-draining basins. We would need to make sure that states like New Mexico and Texas don’t think they are represented. Al thinks it makes sense that we are recognizing beyond the PNW.

  1. Symposium Planning Committee Members— discussion of FMCS 2021 symposium and PNW Workgroup Special Session [recurring agenda item]

The committee provided a progress report on the (now postponed) Portland meeting, special mussel session, potential for virtual meeting, speakers, workshops and field trips. We discussed a virtual meeting in more detail. Celeste mentioned the virtual SFS meeting. Kevin said he saw one on Scots broom- a good example of a live one. Al said he saw one a month or so ago on monarch butterflies with 3-4 speakers over several hours, although the quality of the video was not good. Liz said Salish Sea ecosystem conference went very well, so that is another good one to look at. Kate said AFS spring virtual meeting went really well. USFSW mussel webinar went really well, too. Al agreed the USFWS webinar was great.

  1. Other items:
    1. Idaho harvest regulation changes: update on progress. Al shared testimony with Dave Stagliano from his own presentation to ODFW Commission. No further details.
    2. Mineral prospecting and placer mining: Kevin said Washington has updated their placer mining regulations. Aquatic mining is now restricted (see the map shared by WDFW). Mussels will benefit as well. Only possible in specific watersheds. Lots of recreational miners. Al has seen gold dredging in the Rogue River basin and it is very destructive. It is now better regulated in Oregon. New regulations in effect in Washington. Some differences between mechanical and non-mechanical. Panning still allowed anywhere. Cynthia said the Idaho restrictions are related to anadromous fish presence.
    3. Unio and FMCS listserv subscriptions: Emilie and Kevin attempted to have our listserv subscribed to these listservs but have had varying success with emails actually going through. We will continue to work on this
    4. Mussel Webinar Series ideas from workgroup members

Emilie provided results of the workgroup survey on webinar suggestions. We

  1. Case Studies in the PNW (mussel surveys and distribution studies)
  2. Restoration Projects I: Removal and Recolonization (Methods)
  • Restoration Projects II: Habitat Improvements and Mussel Communities (If we build it, will they come?)
  1. Ecology of Mussels in Running Water; Localized Effects on Water Quality and Other Species
  2. Importance of Mussels in Native American Culture
  3. Climate Change and Habitat Suitability: how is distribution of mussels affected?
  • Status and trends of PNW mussel species
  • Knowledge gaps, ongoing projects
  1. Sampling techniques, especially eDNA and translocation protocols

Cynthia said that Torrey just published a paper in Freshwater Biology on the western mussel eDNA primers. He would be a good person to speak on western mussel eDNA. He gives a good presentation. Emilie said it might be better if someone could speak more broadly to the eDNA efforts taking place. Montana RMRS is spearheading some of that work. Al thinks this would be a good topic. Cynthia said Salmon Challis NF has pearlshell in the Salmon River. Torrey was able to show via eDNA that Gonidea was present and so needed to take precautions when planning forest management. Liz said Marie Winkowski is leading an eDNA study in the Chehalis. She isn’t volunteering Marie, but that would be a good project to discuss. Emilie agreed to reach out to Matthew Patterson to see about our recommendations.


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