Richard J. Neves of Blacksburg, professor of fisheries and wildlife science at Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award from the U. S. Department of the Interior in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the U.S. Geological Survey in the conservation of freshwater mussels in North America.
Previously honored by The Nature Conservancy for his fruitful pioneering efforts, Neves established one of the first and most influential research and training programs on freshwater mussel biology and conservation. His work, which has documented the status of many species of mussels and other aquatic invertebrates, lead to the discovery of the life cycles, intermediate hosts, and reproductive processes and triggers for 18 species of freshwater mussels. After discovering the fish host species for the intermediate life stages of several mussel species, Neves developed laboratory culture techniques, and hatchery techniques for propagating 11 species.
Neves also pioneered the concept of conservation refugia (areas unharmed ecologically that provide goal habitats) for imperiled mussels, and using holding ponds and hatcheries as temporary, long-term holding places for mussels facing such threats as pollution and invasive zebra mussels. Such hatcheries have become integral parts of strategic conservation plans for freshwater mussels. State and federal hatcheries are now holding and propagating several endangered mussels using techniques and facility designs developed by Neves.
A faculty member of the College of Natural Resources since 1978, Neves continues to teach and research the biology and conservation of freshwater mussels, endangered aquatic species, restoration and recovery of aquatic ecosystems, and propagation of endangered mollusks.
He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Rhode Island, a master's degree from the University of Maine, and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.
The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech is consistently ranked among the top five programs of its kind in the nation, and the fisheries program has been recognized by peers as one of the top two in the nation. Faculty stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management; fisheries and wildlife sciences; forestry; geospatial and environmental analysis; natural resource recreation; urban forestry; wood science and forest products; geography; and international development.
Written by Hilary Fussell, Public Affairs Assistant