Tag: Mississippi River wildlife

Experiment: Freshwater Mussel Restoration

Tharran Hobson dons a wetsuit and wades into the wetland. Soon he is swimming, diving, fishing around—“pollywogging,” he calls it—finally emerging with his muddy bounty, a small wire cage.

As underwater treasures go, it doesn’t look like much: A wire structure with a silt-covered tray in the bottom.

But this contraption may hold the key to restoring some of the least understood and most abused creatures in the Mississippi River system: freshwater mussels.

Conservancy scientists and partners are currently testing whether restored wetlands might be suitable sites for freshwater mussel propagation efforts. If it works, it could be another important tactic in the restoration of freshwater mussels that once existed in Midwest rivers by the millions.

I’m joining these scientists at the Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, a 6800-acre restored floodplain along the Illinois River (a significant tributary of the Mississippi). This project has already been successful in drawing in thousands of migrating waterfowl, and in restoring 30 native fish species.

Could it also serve as a breeding project for mussels?

That’s what I’m here to find out.

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