Five members of the Memphis District Dive Team, led by Biologist Mike Thron, spent a week in October searching for two species of threatened and endangered mussels species on the Apalachicola River north of Panama City, Florida.
“We were working for the Mobile District, establishing baseline population numbers and age classes for the fat threeridge and purple bankclimber mussels,” Thron said. “This effort was conducted to fulfill the requirements of a biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the goal of determining how the new water control manual for operation of the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam might affect the mussel populations.”
Thron said this lock and dam is the last one on the Apalachicola River before it empties into Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Other Dive Team members who participated in the work were Mark Smith, Andrea Carpenter-Crowther, Kevin Pigott and Josh Koontz. They worked with biologist Heather Bulger from the Mobile District and fisheries Biologist Todd Slack from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
“We dove at three different locations on the river and made eight dives each day,” Smith said. “Everyone on the team was able to dive.”
He went on to explain that they were looking at different habitat types in the various locations and were working at depths ranging from 3 to 22 feet in most cases.
“Visibility was about three feet,” Smith said. “We could see our hands. That’s rarely the case on the rivers around here where we usually dive.”
Thron said this was all part of a long term effort to monitor the mussel populations. He expects the dive team will be going back to check on the mussel populations for several years.