Restoring and Revitalizing Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels are among the oldest living and second most diverse organisms on Earth with over 1,000 recognized species. Here in the eastern part of the U.S., we have more species of freshwater mussels than anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, freshwater mussels are one of the most rapidly declining animal groups in North America. Out of the 300 species and subspecies found on the continent, 70 (23%) have been federally listed as “Threatened” or “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. And, in the last century, over 30 species have become permanently extinct. So, why are populations declining so fast?

Freshwater mussels are filter feeders and process large volumes of the water they live in to obtain food. This means of survival also makes them highly susceptible to industrial and agricultural water pollution.  Because they are constantly filtering water, the contaminants and pathogens that are present are absorbed into the mussel’s tissues. As such, mussels are good indicators of water quality and can greatly contribute to improving water quality by filtering algae, bacteria and organic matter from the water column.

Not only do freshwater mussels rely on water quality, they are dependent on fish and other aquatic organisms for reproductive success. In order for a freshwater mussel to complete the reproduction process, it must “infect” a host fish with its larvae. The method depends on the specie of mussel. Some species lure fish using highly modified and evolved appendages that mimic prey. When a fish goes into investigate the lures, the female mussel releases fertilized eggs that attach to the fish, becoming temporarily parasitic. Once the host fish is infected, it can transfer the mussel larvae upstream and into new areas of the river.

Both habitat loss from dam construction and the introduction of pesticides into the water supply has contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels. With approximately 300 mussel species in the U.S. alone, a critical component of restoring and revitalizing mussel populations is truly understanding their biology, which begins with the ability to properly differentiate each species and properly identify and catalog them. Princeton Hydro’s Senior Scientist Evan Kwityn, CLP and Aquatic Ecologist Jesse Smith recently completed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s Fresh Water Mussel Identification Training at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

Through hands-on laboratory training, Evan and Jesse developed their freshwater mussel identification skills and their knowledge of freshwater mussel species biology. Course participants were tasked with mastering approximately 100 of the most common freshwater mussel species in the United States. They also learned about proper freshwater mussel collection labeling, the internal and external anatomy and meristics of a freshwater mussel, and distributional maps as an aid to freshwater mussel identification.

In a recently published press release, Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity was quoted as saying, “The health of freshwater mussels directly reflects river health, so protecting the places where these mussels live will help all of us who rely on clean water. This is especially important now, when we see growing threats to clean water from climate change, agriculture and other sources.”

Princeton Hydro is committed to protecting water quality, restoring habitats, and managing natural resources. Read about some of our recent projects and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

To learn more about freshwater mussels, check out this video from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Princeton Hydro Team Trained in USACE MII Cost Estimating Software

Congratulations to Amy McNamara and James Hunt of Princeton Hydro who received their certificates of completion for the in-depth training of the October 2017 MCACES (Micro-Computer Aided Cost Estimating System), 2nd Generation (MII) Training Course in Atlanta, Georgia. MCACES is an integrated cost estimating system that meets the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requirements for preparing cost estimates for civil works projects.

This 32-hour course provided an in-depth look at the software application and its components which are used to build detailed construction cost estimates. In a classroom setting, Amy and Jim learned how to prepare and execute computerized cost estimates using parametric worksheets, quantity linking, and assemblies. Our engineering team now has the capability to navigate through the MII software and libraries to create a project, cost items, crews, labor and equipment. Amy and Jim understand how to work with database functions to create site-specific unit prices, modify equipment costs for project specific circumstances, and adjust crew for overtime and shift differential.

Now being used by many of the USACE districts, it will soon be a requirement for all USACE districts to use MII, as well as all architect-engineering (A-E) firms performing design work for the USACE.

“We are looking forward to using the program to help our Federal partners meet their mission objectives,” stated Geoff Goll, President of Princeton Hydro. “The completion of such training efforts continues our commitment to supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts in the North Atlantic Division and beyond.”