Metro park flexes its mussels

In August, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is hosting two events featuring freshwater mussels. Both involve a chance to get in the water and search for what some call “nature’s squirt gun.”

(Posted July 26, 2017)

By Noell Wolfgram Evans, Staff Writer

“Big Darby Creek has 44 varieties of freshwater mussels. That’s more than Australia and Europe combined,” says Tim Taylor, a naturalist at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park near West Jefferson.

The ecosystem of the freshwater mussel will be studied, explored and even “noodled” at a pair of events in August.

On Aug, 4, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR) will team-up to host a mussel workshop starting at 9 a.m. Registration is required for this event which costs $20 and includes lunch.

According to Karen Norris, a wildlife communication specialist at the ODNR Division of Wildlife, “The first part of the day will be in the class room with speakers from OSU and Otterbein. They will be sharing their expertise on mussel biology, ecology and identification.”

After a lunch break, participants will head outside for hands-on, in-the-creek experience.

If you’re not up for the classroom experience, consider taking a trip to “Mussel Beach” at 1 p.m. Aug. 6. This annual event gives park visitors an opportunity to discover freshwater mussels where they live—at the bottom of the creek.

A park naturalist will lead visitors through the creek on what Taylor de-scribes as a “treasure hunt.” Participants will learn the lifecycle of a freshwater mussel along with how to identify the many varieties.

If the water in the creek is clear enough, visitors should be able to spot the creatures as they move and rest on the creekbed. Taylor said that most likely a little bit of “noodling” will be required though. This is a term he uses when people have to get into the creek and use their hands to feel along the bed and find the freshwater mussels by touch.

It’s important to learn about this animal because they are “one of the most endangered family of animals in the U.S.,” Taylor said. This is due to a combination of water pollution and the desirability of the mussel shell for making objects like buttons and pearls.

To take part in the free Mussel Beach event, participants are asked to meet at the Indian Ridge Picnic Area at 2705 Darby Creek Dr. Be prepared to get wet.

Taylor likes to describe mussels as “nature’s squirt gun.” They are constantly circulating water through their bodies. When they are touched, that process closes off, but there is still some water remaining which they have a tendency to squirt out.

It is suggested that participants wear old tennisshoes or water shoes and come dressed for the outdoors.

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