Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
A Mussel Delivery Three Years In The Making
Midwest Region, May 28, 2013
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Seven bags of mussels ready for delivery.
Seven bags of mussels ready for delivery. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Seven species for USGS tests (Clockwise from top): threeridge, wabash pigtoe, hickorynut, washboard, Higgins' eye, plain pocketbook and fatmucket.
Seven species for USGS tests (Clockwise from top): threeridge, wabash pigtoe, hickorynut, washboard, Higgins' eye, plain pocketbook and fatmucket. - Photo Credit: USFWS

When I arrived at Genoa NFH in August 2010, the first project I was handed was to provide mussels of three different life stages (larval, juvenile, sub-adult) to the USGS lab in La Crosse for testing to determine if a biocide capable of killing the exotic zebra mussel was also toxic to native freshwater mussels. The project called for seven different species ranging from common to federally endangered.

During 2011 and 2012 we provided mussel larvae and juvenile mussels from each of the seven species and the first two phases of the project were completed. Also during that time we placed mussel culture cages at multiple locations holding fish inoculated with our target species.

Each year we would collect and set aside the species that had been successfully cultured, waiting for the lab to be ready to conduct the test. Any species that was not successful would be attempted the following year. When trials were scheduled for May 2013 we had to wait for the ice to thaw from the river before venturing out to see how our test subjects had held up. Turns out we were successful in growing an appropriate number of four of our target species (hickorynut, fatmucket, plain pocketbook, Higgins’ eye). We were able to acquire a fifth species, the washboard, from the mussel propagation lab at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

It was decided that the final two species could be collected from the wild and so Genoa NFH divers spent a sunny Friday afternoon in May submerged in the deep dark waters of the Mississippi River. At the end of the day they arose from the water victorious with enough mussels to conduct the experiment.

All seven species were tagged by USGS biologists, so individuals could be monitored through the study. On May 28th, all of them left Genoa NFH and headed for test chambers at the USGS mobile lab. The chemical was exposed to the mussels and they were then placed in a Genoa style mussel cage to monitor post test survival for 30 days.

At the end of that time the cages will be retrieved and all the living and dead mussels will be counted. Lots of live mussels will mean that the chemical is safe for native mussels, while dead mussels mean the opposite. Either way Genoa NFH was able to accept the responsibility of the large mussel order and deliver every species and life stage at the appropriate time.

Contact Info: Nathan Eckert, 608-689-2605 ex 115, Nathan_Eckert@fws.gov
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