Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Happened to Pearlshell Mussels in the Hanford Reach?

This is the 2nd installment of this story.  To learn more see our post from July 25, 2012: "Mussels in a Desert?!"

By Joe Bartoszek, Ph.D., Resource Contaminant Specialist, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office

The western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera falcata) may no longer exist in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River and scientists Dr. Joe Bartoszek of USFWS and with Doctors Chris Ingersoll of USGS and Dr. Chris Barnhart of Missouri State College are working to find out why.  A 2004 survey in the area found only shells from animals that had died in the past 10 years even though there is plenty of suitable habitat and  they were once found in large numbers. One reason could be contaminants originating from the Hanford Nuclear Site.

The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, Washington State. Once home to the western pearlshell mussel. 
Photo Credit: Department of Energy