And now for something completely different… freshwater mussel surveys

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Architectural history is my “main thing,” but it’s nice to diversify every now and then. This week, I am out on a freshwater mussel survey as a subconsultant to EnviroScience, Inc., a natural resources environmental consultant. When I was a historian with the West Virginia Division of Highways, I was lucky to be able to learn about the natural resource side of environmental consulting, and helped out on mussel surveys. In fact, ES did quite a bit of training for WVDOH staff in mussel surveying when I was on staff there. I was even certified in SCUBA and got to dive for mussels. However, on our current project on the Maumee River, I am leaving the diving to the professionals at ES and assisting in data collection and writing the report.

Many people don’t even realize that our rivers and streams contain native freshwater mussels (some know them as “clams”). I certainly didn’t before I started working at WVDOH. All freshwater mussels are protected and some are listed as endangered at the state and federal levels. Mussels are an important part of the ecosystem and filter water in rivers and streams, helping to keep them clean. Any government-funded activity that may affect mussels requires a study and actions to minimize impacts to the animals. For more info, check out the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society.

(Important Notes: No, they are no good to eat, and no, they are not the same thing as the infamous zebra mussel, a non-native invasive species causing damage in many of our lakes and rivers.)


After hour 6 or 7 of waiting patiently in the hot sun, it’s good to look around and remind myself that many people would gladly take a job that involved hanging out on a boat on a scenic river on a gorgeous summer day.

The diver entering the water.

The diver entering the water.

Measuring and recording the mussels with Dale and Marion.

Measuring and recording the mussels with Dale from ES and Marion from LJB.

The view from the boat.

The view from the boat.

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Courtney is the owner and principal of Aurora Research Associates, LLC, an historic preservation consulting firm.

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