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Malacology Collections Manager Excels in Post-Graduate Position

Central to the McClung Museum’s mission is training the next generation of scholars and museum professionals in our labs and galleries.

Exemplary of this is recent museum alumna Kristin Irwin, who began work as collections manager of malacology in October 2014. During her time at the museum, she catalogued approximately 3,500 lots of freshwater mussels and snails, co-taught several freshwater mussel identification workshops, and coordinated volunteer work in the collection.

She assisted the museum’s Curator of Malacology, Gerry Dinkins, with several research projects, including a study that resulted in the recording of a new freshwater mussel species for the state of Tennessee. Kristin gave presentations on the collection to undergraduate and graduate students from several academic departments. She represented the McClung Museum at multiple professional conferences, and shortly before her departure, she began the curation of a freshwater snails exhibit along with Gerry Dinkins.

For her master’s research, Kristin conducted freshwater mussel surveys in the Harpeth and Duck River drainages in Middle Tennessee. She sampled more than 120 sites and documented an unfortunate loss of freshwater mussel diversity in the tributaries of both drainages. However, she also found previously unknown populations of several important species. This research will inform federal and state agencies in their future aquatic management decisions. A notable find of this study was a new record of the Salamander Mussel (Simpsonaias ambigua) in the Harpeth River system. Kristin will volunteer with the Harpeth Conservancy in Brentwood in education and public outreach regarding freshwater mussel biodiversity.

The knowledge and expertise that Kristin gained during her position at the museum prepared her for a professional post-graduate position. Kristin is now working with the US Geological Survey’s Cooperative Research Unit at Tennessee Technological University, and will study the habitat requirements of mussels in the Duck River to assist agencies in their research.