By Leah Garden, TTF Intern
July was a big month for mussels in the TTF watershed! Our Community Watershed Specialist, Alex Cooper, led two energetic groups into the waters of Tookany Creek in Cheltenham to survey for mussels. These citizen scientists were Cheltenham Teen Enrichment Campers as well as interested watershed neighbors. With such hot weather, it didn’t take long for our mussel explorers to strap on their waders and hop into the creek!
Mussel surveying is just one tool we use to meet our goal to improve the health of our creek and its watershed. Working with the Mussel Surveying program of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE), we train volunteers to look for freshwater mussels. These organisms are a type of bivalve related to clams and oysters, which come in a variety of colors and sizes and are usually found buried in the sediment on the bottom of a stream, with only two small siphons exposed.
There are about 300 species of freshwater mussels nationwide. Freshwater mussels filter pollutants out of water, cleaning our waterways and playing an important role in natural ecosystems. However, these are the most imperiled of all plants and animals in our region and are rarely found in areas where they were once common.
At the end of the day, we didn’t find any mussels — but that’s ok! It is just as important to find out where these creatures aren’t present. “No data is data,” according to the scientists at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, who have been been reintroducing mussels in areas where they used to live. The more streams we assess, the better the chance that we will be able to reintroduce mussels in our creeks based on the different habitats and conditions we discover.