Saving Mussels One Project at a Time

Alex Zelles with Mussels

That’s me, LJB environmental scientist Alex Zelles, showing off a freshwater mussel my teammates and I found in Pike County, Ohio

Did you know that all native mussels are protected in Ohio?

Since mussels are protected, scientists must determine the presence or absence of freshwater mussels before any construction activity disturbs a stream or river with a drainage area greater than 10 square miles. When we find evidence of mussels, we must conduct a larger survey to determine how many there are and the species diversity. Any mussels that are within the impact area of a project—or within the upstream and downstream buffer areas—must be relocated upstream to an area of comparable habitat, preferably with other mussels.


The process is called a freshwater mussel survey and relocation, and that’s what our environmental team and our friends at EnviroScience did recently for a client in Pike County, Ohio. It was a beautiful day made even better by our discovery of 36 living mussels representing six species.


We are passionate about protecting mussels since they play such an important role in the aquatic ecosystem. They:

  • Serve as food for other wildlife, including raccoons, otters and herons
  • Serve as a water purification system for our natural waterways, which are a drinking source for many municipalities across the country
  • Are an indicator of aquatic health
  • Provide ecological and economic value
LJB's Anna Kamnyev with Mussels

My teammate, LJB environmental scientist Anna Kamnyev, displays one of our finds for the day

North America has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels in the world, with the greatest diversity in the Midwest. Unfortunately, more than half of the Midwest’s known mussel species are classified as federally endangered, threatened, or a state species of special concern. Ohio is home to 10 species that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

Such classifications are a result of poor water quality; habitat destruction by dams, sedimentation, and pollution; and the arrival of exotic species like the zebra mussels that attach themselves to native mussels.

With so many formidable foes, our native freshwater mussels need all the help they can get. We’re happy to oblige!

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