UMass helps reopen freshwater research station

Freshwater mussels, sometimes called freshwater clams, are filter feeders.
Freshwater mussels, sometimes called freshwater clams, are filter feeders. | File photo

Following renovations and agreements between UMass Amherst and state and federal agencies, the former national salmon hatchery in Sunderland, Massachusetts, has reopened as a cooperative freshwater research center.

Now called the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center, the facility supports research initiatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U. S. Geological Survey, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and UMass Amherst’s new school of Earth and Sustainability. The research focus for this summer is freshwater mussels.

“Research has been strong in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest but our program is the first in the Northeast,” USFWS Biologist and Center Director David Perkins said. “There are challenges, as each mussel species requires a different host fish to grow and multiply. Some are easy to raise, but some have really stringent requirements.”

Freshwater mussels, sometimes called freshwater clams, are filter feeders and serve a key role in marsh, river and pond ecosystems by keeping their water clean. Additionally, they also play a key role in freshwater biodiversity and food chains.

“We are helping to develop techniques for state agencies and wildlife managers to use for mussel conservation,” UMass Amherst research Assistant Professor of Environmental Conservation Allison Roy said. “Mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of fauna in the Northeast. We have one federally endangered species and several state species of concern.”

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