This past summer I returned to work for my local Conservation Authority, St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA) where I also spent summer 2015 working as a Conservation intern in the biology department. SCRCA is the only Ontario Conservation Authority whose territory lies entirely within the Carolinian Forest Ecozone. The positions with SCRCA in this very diverse and important landscape exposed me to a number of different opportunities in both the field and the office. Field work often included the surveying of many different species both freshwater and terrestrial. A major task this summer was a large mussel relocation project to allow for excavation work to be done near a bridge over the Sydenham River (one of the most species diverse rivers in Canada, containing 34 species of freshwater mussels and several Species at Risk). This project was to remove an existing metal barrier, and replace it with natural stonework which would allow for more fish and mussel habitat and passageway. Since we had to find and relocate all of the mussels in the designated work area, I discovered the joys of mussel surveying, and was able to access my inner raccoon. The first two passes of mussel surveying involve biologists on their hands and knees, crawling along the riverbed scraping and digging through sediment with their hands in search of living mussels and also empty shells. This technique is often referred to as “raccooning”and is quite fun, once you accept the cold and murky water of course. After “raccooning”, the pre-searched areas were excavated with shovel and sieve combos in search for missed mussels and also juveniles too small to be found by the “raccooning”method. The mussels were then processed, which included strict photo vouchers, measurements, and small engraving on the shells. The measurements were done by length, width and height. The engraving consisted of a small 2 letter code, which allows for further information to be accessed if a recapture occurred. Finally the mussels were released in a safe, pre-determined release location, in most cases approximately 40-50 metres from the original site out of harms way of course.
Raccoon digging for mussels
Various staff “raccooning” for mussels in the Sydenham River
Measurement example and generalized mussel body plan
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