Have you seen any mussels?

Julie Slavet
Aug 17, 2012


Volunteers ready to go! (At the Adams Ave. bridge in Tacony Creek Park)

As part of our commitment to clean water, TTF continues to survey local creeks for freshwater mussels. Thank you to our fabulous volunteers for all their great mussel surveying work! Read on to learn more about our most recent mussel surveying event in Tacony Creek Park.

What are they looking for?
Volunteers are looking for freshwater mussels! These organisms are a type of bivalve related to clams and oysters. They 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.

Why freshwater mussels?
Freshwater mussels filter pollutants out of water, cleaning our waterways and playing an important role in natural ecosystems. However, they are the most imperiled of all plants and animals in our region and are rarely found in areas where they were once common.

Organizations like the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) are working to help these mussels, but the last comprehensive survey was completed about 100 years ago… so it’s time to survey again! Collecting and reporting this data will help scientists understand these organisms and find ways to help them make a comeback. Read more about PDE’s work with freshwater mussels here.

Have we found any mussels?
Freshwater mussels have been found living in several streams and rivers around the greater Philadelphia area, but we have not yet found any in the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford (TTF) watershed. We have found lots of interesting rocks and artifacts in the headwater streams, and are looking forward to additional surveying events when we may find mussels! We report our finds (or lack thereof) to the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary because scientists want to know where we did not find mussels just as much as where we did. No data is data too!

At this event, volunteers found lots of fish, a large turtle, crayfish, crab shells, pretty rocks, and even a piece of a freshwater mussel shell! One of the local residents was out walking in the park with his dogs and told us about the animals he sees in the park. He often sees a variety of species of turtles, fox, beavers, and fish (suckers, chubs, sunnies, small mouth bass, and catfish).

Mussel Shell

Two shell pieces found in the creek with a key for scale.
L-R: clam shell and freshwater mussel shell. 

Why is TTF doing this project?
Our job at TTF (Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership) is to improve the health of the TTF creek and its watershed. We team up with organizations like the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) to work together to improve the creek and get people involved and educated as watershed stewards at the same time! Our most recent mussel surveying event took place in Tacony Creek Park, where TTF is leading community members in educational and stewardship activities and raising awareness of watershed issues in conjunction with larger restoration efforts from the Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Learn more about our Tacony Creek Park efforts here.

That looks fun! How can I help?
You can volunteer, along with your family, neighbors and students, for upcoming surveying events! It is fun and easy. For detailed event info, please check out our website and RSVP to info@ttfwatershed.org or 215-844-8100.

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