Bat Conservation is the Theme of Virginia Cave Week, April 19-25, 2015; and Bats’ Connections to Water are the Theme of Virginia Water Radio Episode 263, Posted 4/24/15

Virginia Cave Week, coordinated by the Virginia Cave Board, runs April 19-25, 2015, and bat conservation is the 2015 theme.  More information about the week is available from the Virginia Cave Board, online at http://www.vacaveweek.com/, and in the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s April 8, 2015, news release on the week,  online at this link.

And Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, Episode 263 (posted 4/24/15), is “Bats and Water.”  The 4 min./20 sec. episode includes bat-echolocation sounds processed to make them audible to humans, and an excerpt of “Little Brown Bats Eating Mosquitoes,” by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg.  Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen!

“Virginia Treasures” Strategy for Land Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Announced April 22, 2015, by Gov. McCauliffe

Following are the hyperlinked headline and an excerpt from the Virginia Governor’s Office’s Apr. 22, 2015, news release on the launch of Virginia Treasures, a new land-conservation and outdoor-recreation strategy.  The Web site for Virginia Treasures is http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/virginia-treasures.shtml.  Other Governor’s Office news releases are online at https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Major Conservation Initiative, 4/22/15.
Excerpt: “Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the launch of Virginia Treasures, the Commonwealth’s new strategy for conserving land and expanding access to public outdoor recreation. … The administration’s goal is to identify, conserve, and protect at least 1,000 treasures by the end of the governor’s term. Criteria for what constitutes a treasure have been developed by the Commonwealth’s natural resources staff.

“Treasures could fall into one of two defined categories: land conservation; or natural, cultural, and recreational.  Land conservation treasures include agricultural lands, forests that provide water-quality benefits, wetlands, and habitat for rare or threatened plants and animals.  Natural, cultural, and recreational treasures include trails, water-access points, parks, scenic byways, rivers and viewsheds, public gardens, and wildlife-viewing areas.

“Governor McAuliffe [also] announced a new Virginia Treasure at Pocahontas State Park: a monarch butterfly garden. The garden will provide native plants and grasses for monarchs and other pollinators as part of an initiative to restore the monarch population, which has been on the decline due to the loss of food sources and habitat. …

“The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is the lead agency charged with tracking Virginia Treasures. Multiple state agencies, land trusts, local governments and private groups are involved in the initiative.”

An Introduction to Freshwater Snails

This post is based on work done to produce Virginia Water Radio Episode 262 (4/20/15), a 3 min./28 sec. podcast on this topic, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2015/04/episode-262-4-20-15-freshwater-snails.html.  Have a listen!

All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 4/22/15.

What group of animals has an infamous reputation for moving slowly, leaving a slimy trail, and living in a shell?

That would, of course, be snails.

Snails, which along with slugs are called gastropods, make up one class of the animals known as mollusks, referred to by scientists as Phylum Mollusca.  The mollusks phylum, comprising well over 100,000 species, also includes two-shelled animals (known as bivalves), such as clams, mussels, and oysters; squids and octopuses, which have an internal shell; and several other groups.  But a large majority of mollusks are gastropods, particularly snails.

Most snails are either land-based, or terrestrial, or live in marine waters.  But many species of freshwater snail species also exist, including several hundred in North America.  About 70 native or naturalized snail species live in Virginia’s streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and other freshwater bodies (compared to over 150 snail species that live on land in Virginia).  And Virginia’s streams in the Ohio River basin are part of one of North America’s most species-rich freshwater snail areas.

Like most land snails, most aquatic snails have a single shell, which differs in shape and size among different snail families.  Most freshwater species have a coiled and spiral shell, but some species have flat coiled shells, and some have flat, non-coiled shells.

As noted above, snails are called gastropods, a word whose roots mean “stomach” and “foot.”  This is because part of snails’ digestive system is in their fleshy foot, which snails use to attach to rocks, plants, or other surfaces and to move along a slimy trial of mucus secreted by the foot.

Snails play important roles in food webs and in the cycling of energy and nutrients in aquatic ecosystems.  Most freshwater snails feed by scraping algae off the surface to which the snail’s attached; this algae grazing can help regulate and invigorate the algal community, which is one main source of food and energy in aquatic systems.  Removing algae from underwater plants can also help those plants get the light they need (just as algae need) to conduct photosynthesis.  Freshwater snails, in turn, are food for a large number of other animals, including certain fish, amphibians, waterfowl, and turtles.

Snails might have reputation for being slow, slimy, and shell-bound, but a remarkable number of things living under fresh water are influenced by these diverse and widespread mollusks.

Snails South Fork Roanoke River SOS site Jul 13 2014 USED Radio 262 4-20-15

Freshwater snails in the South Fork Roanoke River near Elliston, Va. (Montgomery County), July 13, 2014.

Below are sources of more information to help you learn more about freshwater snails and mollusks generally. Following the sources is information on how this post may help Virginia’s teachers with various science Standards of Learning.

Sources for this Post and for More Information

Illinois Natural History Survey, “Mollusks,” online at http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/outreach/animals/mollusks/.

T. Dillon, Jr., et al., The Freshwater Gastropods of North America,” online at http://www.fwgna.org/. This is an effort to document the species in all 15 families of gastropods in North America north of Mexico. The Virginia section of the Web site is at http://www.fwgna.org/FWGVA/.

ETI Bioinformatics/Key to Nature Series, online at http://www.keytonature.eu/wiki/ETI_BioInformatics. The “Marine Species Identification Portal/Molluscs” is available online at http://species-identification.org/index.php?groep=Molluscs&selectie=12&hoofdgroepen_pad=%2C1%2C12. The site identifies the many species of gastropods and other mollusks (also written “molluscs”) that inhabit marine waters worldwide.

Paul D. Johnson, Freshwater Snail Biodiversity and Conservation, Pub. No. 420-630, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Blacksburg, Va., 2009; available online at https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/420/420-530/420-530_pdf.pdf.

New Hampshire Public Television’s Nature Works Web site, “Squid and Octopus,” online at http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/nwep6f.htm.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at http://vafwis.org/fwis/?Menu=Home.Species+Information. “Snails” search results on 4/15/15 at this link (234 species). One can search by common name or scientific name of species or groups.

VDGIF, “Freshwater Mussels,” online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/freshwater-mussels.asp; and “Freshwater Mussel Restoration,” http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/awcc/freshwater-mussel-restoration/.

VDGIF, “List of Native and Naturalized Fauna of Virginia—March 2012,” available online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/virginianativenaturalizedspecies.pdf (lists freshwater and [in part] terrestrial snails, but not marine species).

Reese Voshell, Jr., A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, McDonald & Woodward, Blacksburg, Va., 2002.

SOLs Information for Virginia Teachers

This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs).

Grades K-6
Earth Resources: 4.9 (Virginia natural resources);
Life Processes: 1.5 (basic needs), 3.4 (adaptations);
Living Systems: 3.5 (food chains), 3.6 (aquatic ecosystems), 4.5 (ecological interactions), 5.5 (organism features and classification), 6.7 (watersheds: snail diversity in Ohio River basin).

Life Science
LS.4 (features and classification);
LS.6 (ecosystem components and cycles);
LS.8 (population interactions);
LS.9 (adaptations for particular ecosystems).

Biology
BIO.8 (interactions among populations, communities, and ecosystems; including analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems).

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending April 21, 2015

Below are images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the southeastern United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending April 21, 2015.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images.  For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.  For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

Precipitation

The following maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation for the given location at this time of year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending April 21, 2015.  The maps were accessed on April 22, 2015, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).

precip Apr 21Precip perc Apr 21

For another precipitation-information source:
The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, http://water.weather.gov/precip/, provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries.  Shown below is the map of seven-day precipitation ending at 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 22, 2015.  (Please note that UTC, the time shown on the map below, is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.)

Precip US Apr 22

Stream Flow

Average Virginia stream flow over week ending April 21, 2015, is indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/classic.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=mv01d%2Cmap, accessed 4/22/15).  The map compares the previous week’s average stream flows—at 137 stream-gaging stations in Virginia and just beyond the state border—to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compare flows to historical records are as shown in the following chart (the higher the percentile and the “bluer” the color, the higher the flow relative to normal for the site and time of year).

KEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graphStreams Apr 21

Coal Ash Storage Regulation Published by U.S. EPA in Federal Register on Apr. 17, 2015; Dominion to Close Ash Ponds at Four Virginia Power Stations Within Three Years

On April 17, 2015, the U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register the final version of its regulation (“final rule”) on disposal of coal combustion residuals (also called “coal ash”) from electric utilities, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  The U.S. EPA administrator had signed the final rule on December 19, 2014.  According to the EPA’s Web site on the rule, the rule aims to address three areas of risk from coal ash disposal: leaking of contaminants into groundwater, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface ponds.

Also on April 17, Dominion Virginia Power announced that it will comply with the new regulation by closing—within three years—coal-ash ponds at four Virginia electric-power stations: Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, Chesapeake Energy Center in the City of Chesapeake, Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, and Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County. The process Dominion will follow includes—at minimum—draining the ponds, covering them with an impermeable liner, then covering the liner with 24 inches of soil planted with grass seed or sod. Final details of the closure process—including whether or not any of the ash will be removed—are to be determined by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Sources:
“Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities,” U.S. EPA, online at http://www2.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-rule, accessed 4/22/15.

Dominion Virginia Power to close coal ash ponds in state, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17/15.

USED Sep07 Dominion Chesterfield Power Station near plant Dutch Gap Conservation Area Jun22 2007

Dominion Virginia Power’s Chesterfield Power Station on the James River in Chesterfield County, Va., shown here in June 2007.

FERC Scoping Meetings for Proposed Mountain Valley Gas Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement to be held May 4-13, 2015, in Va. and W. Va.

On April 17, 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC,  issued a “Notice of Intent to Prepare and Environmental Impact Statement” for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Project.  EQT Corporation of Pennsylvania and NextEra Energy of Florida–collaborating to form Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC–have proposed the approximately 300-mile natural-gas pipeline from West Virginia to a connection in Pittsylvania County, Va., with the existing Transcontinental (or Transco) pipeline that runs from Texas to New York.

According to the April 17 FERC notice, the route as currently proposed would include the following Virginia counties: Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania; and the following West Virginia counties: Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe.

FERC scheduled six public “scoping” meetings to gather input on “potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts,” according to the FERC notice.  The meeting dates and locations are as follows:

Monday, May 4, 7:00 p.m., James Monroe High School, Route 1 in Lindside, W. Va.

Tuesday, May 5, 7:00 p.m., Eastern Montgomery High School, 4695 Crozier Road in Elliston, Va.

Thursday, May 7, 7:00 pm, Chatham High School, 100 Cavalier Circle in Chatham, Va.

Monday, May 11, 7:00 p.m., Robert C. Byrd Center, 992 North Fork Road in Pine Grove, W. Va.

Tuesday, May 12, 7:00 p.m., West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill, 160 WVU Jackson Mill in Weston, W. Va.

Wednesday, May 13, 7:00 p.m., Nicholas County High School 30 Grizzly Road in Summersville, W. Va.

The FERC docket number for the proposed pipeline is PF15-3; access to project documents and a place for public comments on the proposal are available online at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ferconline.asp.  Access specifically to the April 17 notice on the planned environmental impact statement is at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20150417-3022.

On Virginia Water Radio for 4-20-15: Freshwater Snails

This week, Virginia Water Radio takes a snail’s eye view of freshwater ecology.  Click here to have a listen (3 min./28 sec.)

Snails South Fork Roanoke River SOS site Jul 13 2014 USED Radio 262 4-20-15

Freshwater snails in the South Fork Roanoke River in Montgomery County, Va., July 13, 2014

Virginia Water Radio, online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org, is the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s weekly podcast using sounds and music to focus on issues, events, people, and creatures connected to Virginia’s waters.