Texas A&M AgriLife scientists are working to better understand the ecology and taxonomy of Texas freshwater mussels. These mussels play critically important roles in freshwater ecosystems and have beneficial impacts on human health, making them a high priority for conservation. Fifteen species have previously been classified as "threatened," and now one--the Texas hornshell mussel--is officially listed as "endangered."
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Jennifer Morton hovers methodically over a row of clear, water-filled containers on a tight-spaced industrial shelving system. She plucks a mollusk from one of the containers, observing the specimen as part of a study on freshwater mussel tolerances.
Megan Hess, an assistant researcher looking into declining mussel populations, was recognized this past week for her ongoing work to determine the ratio of male to female freshwater mussels among certain critically imperiled species.
Though zebra mussels in Texas give mussels a bad name, other freshwater mussels are welcomed and needed in Texas waters.
Invasive zebra mussels, first confirmed in Texas in 2009, are causing major economic and environmental damages to Texas reservoirs. But unionid mussels, a family of freshwater mussels, are important indicators of water quality and stream health and play an important role in freshwater ecosystems, according to Dr. Charles Randklev, research scientist for the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR).