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Collaboration - A Recipe for Success

Between the Little Miami Conservancy, and

the Little Miami River National Wild and Scenic Watershed Community to Restore the Fresh Water Mussel Population

It takes a true collaboration of like-minded individuals and dedicated groups to understand and contribute to conservation efforts. Such collaboration is evident in the Little Miami Conservancy (LMC) ongoing efforts to help understand and implement plans for fresh water mussel conservation and restoration in the Little Miami National Wild and Scenic River.

Collaboration with LMC Volunteers to collect environmental DNA (eDNA)

In 2021 a group of LMC volunteers worked to collect environmental DNA samples (eDNA) from 50 different locations on the Little Miami and its tributaries to document the presence of key fish species – a tool to understand and identify the best locations for potential re-introduction of freshwater mussels into the Little Miami River. In doing so, LMC collaborated with the Izaak Walton League, Buckeye United Fly Fishing Club, Jonah Ventures - an eDNA processing lab, and three local high schools to get the job done.

Collaboration with Naturalist Experts in the field of Freshwater Mussels

The restoration of global freshwater mussel species and populations is an ongoing challenge to maintain and improve the health of the world’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Freshwater mussels are the second most imperiled animal on the planet. This project can only be completed with the help of many experts. Much credit goes out to them for their generous consultation, published knowledge, and passion for this research.

The Center for Conservation of Mollusks in Frankfort of Mollusks in Frankfort, Kentucky

A team from LMC visited the Center for Conservation of Mollusks in Frankfort, Kentucky, meeting with Monte McGregor, PhD, and Wendell Haag, PhD. There the team toured the facility where Drs. McGregor and Haag have perfected a process of in vitro fertilization - producing thousands of juvenile mussels. These juvenile mussels have successfully been restocked in the Licking and Green Rivers in Kentucky and in several other rivers in the Midwest. LMC is participating in this project by building concrete mussel silos needed to test the viability of this project. LMC is using the results of the eDNA testing to select specific sites to determine habitat suitability for the restocking of juvenile mussels, beginning a collaboration effort that has grown into a multistate effort.

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Fresh Water Mussel Conservation and Research Center

A team from the LMC visited the Ohio State University Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, Fresh Water Mussel Conservation and Research Center in March of 2022. The goal of the visit was to compare notes and to better understand their process of building these unique mussel silos. A mussel silo is a concrete protective environment built as a temporary device to house and protect glochidia - embryos that will develop into juvenile mussels. The silos containing juvenile mussels will be placed within the stream bed to see how the juvenile mussels fare. At this early stage juvenile mussels are dependent upon food sources in the moving stream water for nourishment and growth until they are viable to be released and eventually mature to adults. As adults, they provide essential benefit streams, acting as a key filtration system for river and stream ecosystems.

The trip to Columbus allowed the LMC volunteer team to meet and to discuss critical methodology to enable the project to move forward. Topics of discussion included both hands-on examination of the mussel silo prototypes, understanding optimal water flow for juvenile mussel survival, and having the ability to review in a laboratory setting progress made toward invitro fertilization and freshwater mussel survival from the glochidia to the juvenile mussel stage. Survival rates are crucial if there is hope to restore these mussel populations to viable adults. The visit was invaluable in terms of information sharing to better understand potential best practices and key issues to successfully continue this mission.

Next Phase of Freshwater Mussel Conservation - Restoration Research -2022

The mussel conservation collaboration that began in 2021 continues into 2022. Going forward the project will include joint efforts by US Fish and Wildlife Services and US Forest Service to support conservation initiatives on three Ohio streams during 2022, and 2023. Deployment of silos stocked with juvenile mussels will occur on Ohio’s three federally listed Wild and Scenic Streams including Little Miami National Wild and Scenic River, and Big and Little Darby Creeks. The program goal is to identify fish species and suitable mussel and fish habitats where freshwater mussels could be reintroduced to support mussel conservation and restoration efforts.

Thank you to these groups for their help and guidance

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has helped fund some of these collaborative efforts through conservation and aquatic education grants to LMC and others dedicated to this important but complex mission. In 2022 LMC continues to receive help and guidance from individuals and entities that have specialized knowledge and expertise. Among them are Monte McGregor, Ph.D, and the Center for Conservation of Mollusks in Frankfort, Kentucky; Wendell Haag, Ph.D, U.S. Forest and U.S. Fish and Game; Michael Hoggarth, Ph.D, Otterbein University, Ohio State University Fresh Water Mussel Conservation and Research Center, Columbus, Ohio; Chris Lorentz, Ph.D, Thomas More University Biology Field Station; Chris Barnhart, Ph.D Missouri State University; Michael Miller, Ph.D. and Michael Booth, Ph.D, University of Cincinnati.


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