This summer I helped out with a summer school field trip to Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge. Twenty-two students in high school were enrolled in the program. Some needed the credit, some wanted something to do, and some just wanted to hang out with their friends.
We had three activities lined out for them: birding, plant id, and aquatic insect id and water testing. The morning was spent birding and looking at plants. Both sessions were sucessful with many species of both birds and plants identified. After lunch, we got into the water in search of aquatic insects. A couple of students remained dry and instead opted for testing the water. Aside from the expected catch of stoneflies and mayflies, we stirred up a few lamprey ammocoetes which were burrowed in the shallows of the creek. I took this opportunity to teach the students about the life history of lamprey and why they are so important. The kids were pretty fascinated by the animals.
After releasing our catch of insects and lamprey, we headed to the buses, some wetter than others. We didn't care though because this day was one of the first days of warm sunny weather.
Today was probably my last field day this year for sampling Western Pearlshell mussels (WPM) for signs of gravidity. Sad! The flow is low and the mussels are burrowing deeper into the substrate, making it harder to find them. At this time of year, when you pull a WPM out of the substrate, they sometimes squirt you and sometimes make noises. Maybe a bit more stressful with less flow and warmer temperatures? Or just a habit of theirs. I guess I wouldn't be quiet if I was pulled out of my habitat either .
Two new people in our office came out to help me. Rachel and Doug. They will mostly be working with the lamprey crew, formally known as the non-salmonid team, for the rest of the summer. Anyway, neither one of them had done any mussel work so they were excited and ready to go. Freshwater mussels already fascinate me so their enthusiasm made it even more fun.
There are few people who come out with me who actually will sample the mussels. You see, in order to check for gravidity we must open the mussel up about a centimeter to inspect their gills. That's where the mussel broods its eggs. So when I asked them if they wanted to sample they delightedly said Yes. I sampled the first couple of transects and showed them what to do and they pretty much took over after that.
The weather could not have been better and the company was excellent. What a great day. Thanks Rachel and Doug. I hope you enjoy your time at the CRFPO.
For more mussel blogs check out mussel mania I posted Feb 2010 and mussel mania II posted in May 2010.