Title of Research: Response of native mussels to changing river conditions: flume experiments at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory
Description: Many freshwater mussel populations in Minnesota have dramatically declined or disappeared due to over-harvesting, widespread habitat destruction, pollution, land-use change, and/or the introduction of exotic species. For example, in the Minnesota River, where mussel diversity was once equal to that of the St. Croix, nearly half of the mussel fauna has been lost and in the past 50 years. In addition, about 20 species have been lost from the Upper Mississippi River basin during the same time period. The loss of freshwater mussels has consequences for both water quality and habitat. Mussels filter phytoplankton and other suspended material from the water column. The physical presence of both living mussels and their spent shells stabilizes sediment, creating habitat for other benthic life including fish, amphibians, insect larvae, and algae. Large aggregations of mussels can improve water clarity and enhance bed stability, decreasing sediment re-suspension during high flows and reducing downstream transport of target contaminants such as excess nutrients, suspended solids, and bacteria. Because of the multitude of factors responsible for mussel population decline, there is a need to understand the interactions among mussels, riverbed habitat and water quality.
As part of a three-year grant, our research this summer will be led by Dr. Jessica Kozarek at the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL). It will focus on flume-based experiments that look at the physical response of mussels to changing fluvial conditions, including suspended sediment concentrations and flow velocities. The work will involve research at the Outdoor StreamLab (OSL; http://www.safl.umn.edu/facilities/osl) and an indoor flume at SAFL, located across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis. Research will be collaborative with students from other institutions. Students should be comfortable doing physical labor, be prepared to work long days outdoors, and be enthusiastic about the intersection of hydrology, mussel ecology, and river system health. Students will gain experience in stream science and engineering tools and methodology, developing and answering research questions, data processing and analyses, and presenting research findings.
Contact: Dr. Jessica Kozarek (firstname.lastname@example.org).