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LMC Launches SOLMARC - a Full River Condition Survey of the Little Miami

The Little Miami Conservancy (LMC) launched a new initiative, the Survey of the Little Miami and River Corridor (SOLMARC) – a comprehensive project to conduct a full river condition survey of 100+ miles of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River.

The Little Miami Conservancy recently created the SOLMARC project to complete a year-long volunteer initiative to survey the Little Miami River and corridor from the Little Miami’s origin at John Bryan State Park to the Ohio River Confluence - searching for and documenting all aspects of the river that deserve attention in terms of ecologic improvement. By doing so the Little Miami Conservancy intends to focus on conditions and opportunities for volunteer stewardship to better support and improve an already outstanding 100-mile plus State and National Scenic River in Ohio.

Little Miami River
The Little Miami State and National Scenic River

Major goals of SOLMARC are to document and record aspects of the river and streams that effect the health of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River and the public it serves. There are four major areas of observation for future action:

  1. Observation and documentation of overall river condition with regard to potential environmental hazards for cleanup and restoration

  2. Photographing and mapping river and stream bank conditions and water quality as it relates to continued health of aquatic habitats for follow up remediation

  3. Observation and documentation of wildlife and aquatic species diversity with regard to understanding and continued support of survival of endangered species

  4. Continuation of the Fresh Water Mussel Project to restore mussel populations through an ongoing collaboration with state and national experts on Fresh Water Mussel conservation

The SOLMARC project – funded in part by ODNR Conservation Grants – will be conducted by volunteers who will observe and record ecological aspects of the river over 14 designated sections via paddle watercraft, hiking, and wading in areas that are not suitable to navigate by watercraft. Data collection will be conducted via aerial photography (drone), on the water (GoPro), and visual documentation. Continued water sampling will also be completed using eDNA kits, a continuation of the 2021 Fresh Water Mussel project.

Restoring Fresh Water Mussel Populations to the Little Miami River – Continuing Progress as part of the SOLMARC Project

The restoration of global Freshwater Mussel 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. LMC has initiated a program to help restore these populations by building and then deploying concrete mussel silos - placing those silos into appropriate river sites stocked with in vitro produced juvenile mussels. In vitro describes mussels produced in a laboratory environment rather than by natural reproductive process. The silo deployment process is used by selecting good stream locations to reintroduce freshwater mussels in larger numbers, hoping to propagate new mussel communities where numbers and species of freshwater mussels have declined.

This project can only be completed with the help of many experts who have given generously of their time and knowledge. Much credit goes out to them for their generous consultation, published knowledge, and passion for this research.

Monte McGregor, Ph.D, and the Center for Conservation of Mollusks in Frankfort, Kentucky; Wendell Haag, Ph.D, U.S. Forest Service; Michael Hoggarth, Ph.D, Otterbein University, Trisha Gibson, 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.

Collaborating with the Team at Columbus Zoo Fresh Water Mussel Conservation and Research Center

LMC visited the Columbus Zoo, Fresh Water Mussel Conservation and Research Center in early March. The goal of the visit was to understand their process in building 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. These silos will be placed within the river or stream bed.

The trip to Columbus allowed our volunteer team to meet and discuss critical methodology to enable this 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 fresh water mussel survival from the glochidia stage to the juvenile mussel stage. Survival rates are crucial if there is hope in restoring these mussel populations to viable adults. The visit was invaluable in terms of information sharing in order to understand potential best practices and key issues to successfully continue this mission.

Freshwater Mussel Restoration and Silo Deployment Efforts in 2022

The mussel conservation project that began in 2021 continues into 2022. Going forward the project will include joint efforts by US Forest Service (USFS) to support conservation initiatives on three Ohio streams during fiscal year 2022-23. All activities will occur on Ohio’s three federally listed Wild and Scenic Streams. Little Miami Wild and Scenic River - mainstem - eight tributaries 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.

Working with Wendell Haag, Ph.D. Research Biologist, U.S. Forest Service Collaborating Scientist, and Monte McGregor, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Conservation of Mollusks in Frankfurt, Kentucky, Little Miami Conservancy has constructed 42 concrete freshwater silos, camouflage-painted and ready for deployment in the Little Miami River, and other Ohio top quality streams.

Twenty of these silos are on loan to US Forest Service for deployment at specific stream locations. They will be loaded with juvenile in vitro freshwater mussels to determine their survival and growth potential in stream locations where they could be reintroduced.

Some of the 20 silos loaned to US Forest Service will be deployed in the Little Miami National and State Scenic River, Big Darby and Little Darby Creeks this week, as part of a nine-state federal mussel recovery program. The remaining 22 silos are expected to be deployed in the Little Miami River depending on availability of in vitro juvenile mussels, weather, and stream conditions. Once deployed the silos will remain in the stream about 3 months, after which they will be removed for further study by marine biologists to evaluate the viability of the river locations to support healthy mussel communities.

Delivering the Mussel Silos for Deployment

The LMC team traveled to Frankfurt to deliver silos to Dr. Haag in May at the Mussel Conservation Center. At this facility, juvenile mussels will be placed in silos and transported to stream locations including selected sites on the Little Miami River for deployment. June will be a busy month for the LMC team as the mussel silos are finally deployed.

Many More SOLMARC Initiatives to Come

While LMC has been busy working on the Fresh Water Mussel project, it is just one of many important conservation initiatives that will be launched this year. LMC continues to plan and prepare for its SOLMARC on-river stewardship activities intended to help discover, identify and protect healthy habitats for sustainable freshwater mussel communities.

Aerial video and still pictures, visual observations, and eDNA test results are expected to be helpful identifying and documenting good places for healthy fish diversity and new mussel communities. Information and data from SOLMARC will also be helpful locating, documenting, and addressing problems on the Little Miami River where volunteer stewardship efforts can help maintain the high standards that support the LMR’s designations as a State and National and Scenic River now and for generations to come.


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