Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Flexing our mussels

In conjunction with the I-74 freshwater mussel relocation, the Illinois-Iowa Ecological Services Field Office has started developing new education materials to strengthen the community’s understanding of freshwater mussels. Contract biologists are partnering with the Iowa Department of Transportation to create presentations, activities, lesson plans, posters and other interactive and engaging materials for educators and individuals to use. Our goal is to make mussel materials easily accessible and fun to explore. As we test out education materials, we have the opportunity to work with a variety of elementary, middle and high school students. We have already served nearly 400 elementary school kids. Small groups have had the opportunity to visit the mussel relocation site, observe how freshwater mussels are identified and processed, talk with malacologists working on the project and learn about the history of mussel conservation on the Mississippi River. These students also handled live mussels, helping to process individuals for the relocation project.

These underappreciated animals provide impressive ecosystem services and are sensitive to water quality issues. We want to highlight their complex life cycle, and show the community how crucial mussels are to the ecosystem. We are excited to use this opportunity to talk about watershed and freshwater system dynamics, and to illustrate just how connected each person is to the landscape. We are hoping to inspire and encourage sustainable decisions. All of the freshwater mussel outreach materials will be available online by spring 2017, making it possible for any educator, parent, or individual to explore.

By Ellen Loechner
Illinois and Iowa Ecological Services Field Office

Mussels are processed during a relocation project for bridge construction in the Mississippi River. Photo by Heidi Woeber/USFWS.

Mussels are processed during a relocation project for bridge construction in the Mississippi River. Photo by Heidi Woeber/USFWS.

 

Last updated: April 7, 2017