Friday, July 17, 2015

What the Glycogen: Chippewa Edition


As we've mentioned, it's been a wet summer. However, whether the weather wants to cooperate or not, we need to prepare each site by grouping and aggregating 10-15 specimens of our target mussel species (the White Heelsplitter and the Plain Pocketbook) for glycogen analysis. 

The glycogen analysis is basically a "how happy/stressed is this mussel?" analysis. While humans store fat in their bodies, mussels store glycogen. Thus, the more glycogen present, the happier and less stressed the mussel is. 

Chippewa River Aggregation Location
The analysis must be done to the mussels in the same time period to get comparable data, so whenever we visit a site, we place our mussel collections in specific locations marked by GPS coordinates, where we will hopefully find them once again. 

Chippewa River Sites

This week, Mark, Brooke and I visited the Chippewa River near Benson, MN. Going in, we had little hope of finding enough mussels for aggregation. Water levels were high, and we often wore two weight belts, and even used small boulders as personal anchors to stay underwater and fight the current! Also, because of the murky water, we had to rely on our sense of touch rather than sight. 

Chippewa River Site
But all our hard work paid off: we were able to find and aggregate enough mussels of both species for 3 full sites! We even found a nice amount of the sneaky White Heelsplitters, which were quite elusive in our Snake and Cottonwood sites.

Mussels buried semi-deep in Snake River substrate

Many species in the Chippewa, especially the Three Ridge and the Plain Pocketbook, were of monstrous size and heavily buried. I don't blame them: either burrow into the substrate or get carried away by the fast current. I think I'll try that next time!

Photos Credits:
Jess Kozarek, picture 3

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