During my undergraduate degree I worked with Dr. Ian Walker, Dr. Jon Mageroy and Roxanne Snook at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus on a project studying the life history of the Rocky Mountain ridged mussel (Gonidea angulata), an endangered species of freshwater mussel that, in Canada, is found only in BC’s Okanagan Valley. When the project began little was known about the mussel and its conservation status, and our immediate goal was to gather information about its habitat and ecological requirements. A secondary goal of the project was to develop a habitat suitability model for the Rocky Mountain ridged mussel, which was to be applied directly to managing shoreline development and preservation in Okanagan Lake.
Based on expert appraisal we conducted fieldwork to identify the extant populations of the mussel in Okanagan Lake as well as testing to quantify the sediment and hydrological conditions present where the mussel was found. Using these occurrences and the conditions present in the mussel beds we developed a Random Forest-derived habitat suitability model for the mussel in Okanagan Lake, which achieved a low misclassification rate and successfully identified four key factors that likely contribute to the mussels’ distribution in the Okanagan Valley.