Wisconsin biologist hopes to study mussels in Green Bay

MADISON — Pollutants such as phosphorous and polychlorinated biphenyls are contributing to the decimation of freshwater mussel populations in areas like the Bay of Green Bay and the Lower Fox River.

Invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels, are also competing against native mussels and driving down populations, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

Of the 51 species of freshwater mussels in Wisconsin, 24 are either endangered, threatened or of special concern, said Jesse Weinzinger is a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"Freshwater mussels are considered the most imperiled animal group in the world, over 70 percent of them are in decline," he said.

Weinzinger is hoping to secure a grant from the department's Office of Great Waters to conduct a survey on the types and numbers of mussels in Green Bay and the Lower Fox River. Biologists are lacking knowledge about what mussels are in the water, he said.

"We want to find out what kind of habitats (the mussels) are currently occupying," Weinzinger said.

The department is currently studying mussels in the Wolf River and the Wisconsin River with the help of the Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring program. The program encourages people to get involved in mussel conservation by take taking of mussels they see in the wild and submitting them with descriptions to a website.

"Volunteers in past inventory surveys have cataloged seven species in Green Bay but we don't know how many, we don't know the densities and we don't know exactly where they occur," Weinzinger said.

Weinzinger hopes to begin the survey this summer if he gets department approval.