Today was a big day for us.
Our academic exchange group gave presentations to the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center faculty and staff on our mussel conservation work in the U.S.
Eric Hallerman was up first and gave an overview of Virginia Tech University and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Eric is the Department Head and Professor of Fisheries, specializing in genetics, and has been at the University for more than 20 years. He gave the Chinese students in the audience a good sense of the research being conducted in our Department and the skills an international student would need to succeed there.
Next up was Dick Neves. Dick is recently retired now but was a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for more than 30 years, specializing in freshwater mussel conservation. He served his career at Virginia Tech as a Professor of Fisheries and Leader of the USGS Cooperative Research Unit in the Department, where he established the mussel lab and program. Dick’s presentation was about the history of freshwater mussel conservation in the United States over the past 30 years, the major milestones and keys to success.
Dan Hua then gave her talk on mussel propagation, culture and monitoring efforts being conducted through Virginia Tech’s Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center (FMCC). Dan is the lab manager of FMCC and our academic exchange leader for the trip. She gave her presentation in Chinese, showing many of the interesting details on the life cycle of freshwater mussels. The audience seemed very engaged during her presentation.
I was up next and talked about the role population genetic studies have played in our understanding of freshwater mussel ecology and management of endangered mussel populations.
Eric then gave two final talks, one on selective breeding of Tilapia and another on mussel genomics. Because selective breeding is a an important research area at FFRC in Wuxi, this talk was well received. Further, he then shared how he and his colleagues sequenced the genomes and identified some of the major genes of three freshwater mussel species. I thought our presentations went very well and gave the faculty and students at FFRC a nice overview of the mussel conservation work we are doing in the United States.
After lunch, we met with Dr. Xu Pao and his staff to follow-up on our morning presentations and engage in further discussions on fisheries research and conservation in China. Eric talked with Professor Zaijie Dong, who is the Deputy Director of the Department of Genetics and Breeding, about selective breeding of Tilapia.
Many of the professors at FFRC are interested in improving Tilapia strains for food fish production, asking questions about the best ways to select and breed the different strains and species of Tilapia.
Later we talked with Professor Xu Dongpo from the Inland Open Water Fisheries Resources Department about the fisheries management issues in the Yangtze River. He explained that they are conducting monthly monitoring at various sites in the lower river for bighead carp, silver carp and other species. These are important food fishes for the families that live in the lower river basin and the fish stocks have declined there. So they are now augmenting populations with hatchery reared individuals and monitoring their stocking efforts.
A very lively discussion took place on the best way to monitor released fish using various types of tags. The Yangtze River has about 373 species of fish.
See the day’s photos at: