Mussels The Conservancy’s Katie Kennedy shows off the eastern elliptio, a native freshwater mussel. © Ryan Kennedy

Stories in Massachusetts

Measuring our Mussels

Freshwater mussels help keep rivers clean by filtering pollutants out of the water. They can also be an indicator of a healthy river, but unfortunately, many freshwater mussels are threatened or endangered.

By studying how human impacts—like land use and dam operation—affect mussel populations, we can get a better picture of how to restore river health. Conservancy scientist Katie Kennedy is researching mussels in the Connecticut River, the longest river in New England.

Kennedy spent the summer collecting water temperature and elevation data at sites with and without endangered freshwater mussels. “Soon,” she says, “this information will help us understand the conditions necessary to sustain these populations, and we can work more effectively both to revive species and to restore river ecosystem health.”