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Jess W. Jones Wins FWS Science Excellence Award

A national leader in freshwater mussel conservation and restoration, Jones has worked with the North Atlantic LCC to study interactions between climate change, contaminants and ecosystems.
Jess W. Jones Wins FWS Science Excellence Award

Dr. Jess W. Jones

Dr. Jess W. Jones, a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation and restoration, has received one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top awards for scientific excellence.

Jones received the 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence (Individual), which recognizes “exemplary scientific contributions to achieving extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation.” The award was among several science awards announced by the agency on Feb. 11, 2014.

Based out of the Service’s Gloucester field office in eastern Virginia, Jones is remotely stationed in the western part of the state at Virginia Tech’s Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, where he works with the freshwater mussel propagation program. Freshwater mussels are among the most imperiled group of animals in the country with a number of species teetering on the brink of extinction. Of the 300 species historically documented in the United States, more than 40 are currently listed as threatened or endangered. Many of these rare species inhabit the upper Tennessee River basin, an area where Jones and his team collect wild mussels, breed them and raise juvenile mussels for release in the Clinch and Powell rivers in Southwest Virginia – where two large spills caused the loss of much mussel habitat.

Jones’ award nomination form states that the task of recovering this group of rare species is “… complicated by environmental variables such as poor land use practices, extractive industries, climate change, and invasive species. These variables are further compounded by the freshwater mussel lifecycle, one of the most complex in the animal world. Even with these hurdles, Jess and his team are consistently able to show demonstrable, high quality, recovery success both in the field and the laboratory.”

In an effort to continually advance the technology at the center, Jones facilitated academic exchanges among the Service, Virginia Tech, and the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in China. There he conducted seminars with scientists and graduate students to promote conservation and recovery of mussels so these principles can be used throughout China. In return, Jones hosted three visiting Chinese professors from the China Ocean University. These exchanges provided opportunities for the Service to learn how Chinese scientists propagate mussels and how their technology can be applied to improve mussel propagation efforts in the United States.

Jones also has broadened his reach to promote mussel conservation and is active in two regional Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), which serve as forums for partners to link science and management to conserve natural and cultural resources at multiple scales. For the Appalachian LCC, he has provided technical expertise to help develop aquatic indicator/surrogate species for monitoring aquatic systems. For the North Atlantic LCC, he has been working with others to study interactions between climate change, contaminants and ecosystems.

“Jess’ passion and enthusiasm for his work sets him apart from other biologists in the field of mussel conservation and recovery,” the nomination form states. “He inspires others to carry on this work by teaching and mentoring the next generation of mussel conservation biologists.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of the Science Advisor’s Science Awards were established to recognize that effective wildlife management and conservation is founded on innovative scientific inquiry and principles. As the Service faces increasingly complex challenges, the value of current scientific information is rapidly increasing. The awards are meant to recognize the outstanding efforts of the agency’s scientists and technical staff.  To learn more about the awards and the nomination process, please visit

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