Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Rodney J. Dyer


Conservation efforts that involve habitat protection, population augmentation, and species reintroductions require knowledge of the habitat requirements, distribution, and abundance of a species—information that can be challenging to acquire, especially for rare organisms with patchy distributions. In this thesis, I develop a protocol for the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) and create a Species Distribution Model for the endangered James spinymussel, Parvaspina collina (Unionidae). The results of this work show that eDNA is a robust tool for identifying species presence but not for estimating the relative abundance of populations. This study found that P. collina’s distribution is influenced by abiotic habitat characteristics related to sedimentation and runoff rather than by the distribution of its host fishes. The predicted habitat suitability was used to identify locations of priority conservation concern and these results can be used to direct future sampling efforts, identify potential dispersal routes, and inform conservation decisions.


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