Freshwater Mollusk Health Assessment

Project ID: FCSR24

freshwater molluscs and researchersPrincipal Investigator: G. Thomas Watters

Project Overview:  Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of animals in North America.  There is a need to assess their health so that they can be better understood and managed. The conservation activities to save freshwater mussels have never been at a higher peak, with new facilities emerging and others being planned. These activities often include moving mussels not only from one river to another, but into captive facilities as well. But is slowly being appreciated that these activities, in themselves, may be harming the very animals we are trying to save. Gauging the health of an animal secreted away between two shells buried in the sand is a daunting task requiring “thinking outside the box.” To this end, the Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center (FMCRC) at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has enlisted the help of world-class veterinarians trained in health assessment to evaluate the mussels kept there. Using innovative and novel techniques (heart catheterization, CAT scans, MRI, etc.) the FMCRC is determining the extent to which our efforts to save mussels actually compromise them.