“So have you heard about the oyster who went to spin class and pulled a mussel?”
The Silence of the Clams — freshwater mussels are considered long term environmental indicator species, or in other words – when they start to go, it’s a sign that other aspects of that environment will follow. As livers of the rivers they are “ecosystem engineers” modifying aquatic habitat and making it more suitable for themselves and other organisms. Amazing creatures right? But wait, hold your pants on…. around the turn of the 20th century, mussel shells were harvested and manufactured into “pearl” buttons and to this day are still the foundation for many cultured pearls. Prior to that, Native Americans not only used the mussels for food, but also used the shells to temper pottery, and for the making of tools, utensils, and jewelry.
Enjoy learning about and searching for these multi-talented, cryptic and hidden creatures on this field trip to the Sangamon River in River Bend Forest Preserve, Champaign County Forest Preserve District. The day will start with a short introduction into mussel biology, ecology and identification. The adventure begins as the group wades into the water to “grub” in the stream bottom in search of mussels. Experts will be close by to help with identification. After a lunch break the group will take to the water once again to continue the search and survey. Gain new respect for these “living rocks,” learn new identification skills and enjoy a summer day in the river.
Trip cost includes lunch, snacks, water and resource materials
Trip Leader: Bob Szafoni, Illinois Audubon Society Board of Directors
Maximum Field Trip Capacity: 12. Must be 12 years and over. Anyone under the age of 18 will require a chaperone.