Museum of Nature to count mussels in Ottawa River
The Canadian Museum of Nature is launching a project to count the mussels in the Ottawa River this summer as part of a pilot initiative mapping freshwater mollusk communities.
Mussels are among Canada’s most endangered animals. The Ottawa River is rich with the water-filtering creatures, which play an important role in keeping water clean and maintaining the ecosystem. The time has come, said Jackie Madill, senior research assistant at the museum and the project’s leader, to learn which species are present in the river, where they thrive and how healthy they are. That means she’s rounding up people to pull out their swimwear, snorkels and underwater notepads and start flexing some science muscle to identify some mussels.
The project will continue over a series of years to paint a picture of how mussel populations are shifting and adjusting to the constantly changing environment. The pilot mirrors initiatives conducted by researchers across the country trying to understand the 54 species of mussels present in Canada. The Ottawa River is home to at least 15 freshwater species, including some very rare species that are hard to find elsewhere. The benefit of volunteers is that each person tends to want to find as many species as possible, Madill said, so collectively they will have a good representation of the area.