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Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge to mark Mussel Month

Photo Provided Mussels are important for humans and the Ohio River ecosystem.

WILLIAMSTOWN — May is Mussel Month at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Wood County.

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge invites the public to the center’s Mussel Month events running the entire month of May.

“We will be hosting guest speakers at the top of their field, teach about the river and provide craft time activities for children, and all of this is in addition to a brand new mussel-themed exhibit we’re very excited to show off,” wildlife refuge officials said.

The exhibit will include a live mussel tank where visitors can get “up close and personal” with these often overlooked yet fascinating animals, the refuge said.

Other exhibits provide information on why mussels are so important for humans and the Ohio River ecosystem.

A list of scheduled events follows:

* Mussel Month will be held at the Refuge Visitor Center at 3982 Waverly Road in Williamstown. Starting in May it will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

* May 5: Grand Opening of Meet the Mussels Exhibit, 10 a.m. – Meet the Mussels – crafts for kids; 1 p.m. – Ieva Roznere, Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University. What relationship do mussels have with other animals in the river? Why are 70 percent of mussel species threatened or endangered. Ieva focuses on the life cycle of mussels.

* May 12: 10 a.m. – Meet the Mussels – Crafts for kids; 7 p.m. – guest speaker Jo Ann Banda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, biologist. “Every day, we use a diverse range of chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and flame retardants used in almost everything.” Explore how our actions are causing problems for fish and mussels, Banda said.

* May 15: 7 p.m. – Guest speaker Lisa Dugas, Pennsylvania Archaeological Council. Do you want to learn more about how ancient native cultures used freshwater mussels? Dugas will cover how the mussels were used by the “Panhandle Archaic Culture.”

* May 19: 10 a.m. – Meet the Mussels – Crafts for kids.

* May 22: 7 p.m. – Guest speaker Janet Clayton, Wildlife Diversity Biologist, Mussel Program Leader, W.Va. Department of Natural Resources. Clayton will discuss West Virginia’s program to survey, monitor and restore freshwater mussels. She will share videos of mussels and provide information about mussel reintroductions in the Ohio River.

* May 26: 10 a.m. – Meet the Mussels – Crafts for kids.

* May 31:7 p.m. – Guest speaker Tyler Hern, Fisheries Biologist, White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery. Hern will discuss the role fish hatcheries play in freshwater mussel propagation, discussing the trials and tribulations of growing mussels to be reintroduced to the wild.

Freshwater mussels are important to the health of a river’s ecosystem, said wildlife refuge officials. They are filter feeders, which helps reduce silt, sediment and pollutants in the water. They also provide habitat for other invertebrates and fish, and are food for other wildlife.

Burrowed in the river sediment, mussels move very little during their life and require fish to serve as hosts to disperse their young, officials said.

The refuge is working with other wildlife organizations to help conserve and restore freshwater mussel populations and communities.

Forty-seven species of native freshwater mussels live within the refuge waters on the Ohio River. This includes six federally endangered mussel species, fanshell, pink mucket, sheepnose, purple cat’s paw pearlymussel, clubshell and Northern riffleshell, and a few others that have not been seen in years.

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