Puget Soundkeeper is looking for adventurous volunteers ready to spend an evening anchoring cages of mussels at Puget Sound beaches!
Mussel Watch is a regional study coordinated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that utilizes mussels to monitor water quality. In December, teams of volunteers throughout Puget Sound will install cages of mussels at a late night low tide. In February, the mussels will be collected and their tissues will be analyzed for the accumulation of various pollutants. This project focuses specifically on urban sample sites with high pollution loads. Less contaminated sites are included for reference. Over the long term, this provides valuable information about improvements or declines in Puget Sound water quality.
Why are mussels used to study pollution? Mussels are prolific filter feeders that can filter anywhere from 20-50 gallons of water each day. Because of this, they perform an important ecosystem service- they clean our water! However, this also means they accumulate the chemicals present in their food and water in their tissues. Mussel digestive systems are relatively primitive and lack a functioning liver. They cannot metabolize contaminants and, instead, accumulate them unchanged in their tissues. This is bad news for mussels, but good news for science. Mussels will accumulate contaminants until they reach equilibrium with their environment (this generally takes 60-90 days, the same amount of time our mussel cages will be placed). Because these chemicals are not biotransformed, mussels provide a comprehensive look at what pollutants are present in a body of water over a period of time. This is a more robust measure than taking a sample on one particular day, when conditions may be variable, and is more sensitive to low levels of contaminants that may otherwise go undetected.
Puget Soundkeeper has adopted 9 sites in the greater Seattle area and we are aiming to deploy our cages on Friday, December 1st. The cages need to be installed at the 0 tide mark, which on the 1st happens at approximately 8:00pm. Our sites are listed below:
- Smith Cove
- Salmon Bay near Commodore Park
- Elliott Bay near Four Mile Rock
- Elliott Bay near Myrtle Edwards
- Elliott Bay near Harbor Island
- Seacrest Park
- Lincoln Park
- Arroyo Beach
- Seahurst Park
On the night of deployment, we will gather at the Soundkeeper office to review the installation protocol, collect materials, and head to our sample sites in teams. Please contact Hillary at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and indicate your top two site preferences.