RDLES Dressinid Mussel Monitoring and Detection Laboratory

Project ID: 2617
Principal Investigator: Diane Mench
Research Topic: Invasive Species
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016, 2017 and 2018
Keywords: None

Research Question

Where in western US waters have Dreissenid Mussels been introduced and where are the
populations increasing? Reclamation received ARRA funding for a Dreissenid mussel early
detection program for the most vulnerable Reclamation reservoirs and facilities. The program
sponsored systematic testing for approximately 329 Reclamation reservoirs and connected
waters from 2008 through 2010. During this period, Reclamation has developed a very strong
early detection program utilizing cross-polarized light microscopy, scanning electron
microscopy, Flow Cam, and DNA testing. The capability to detect the earliest stages of potential
mussel infestation at our reservoirs, allows facility managers to make budget and management
decisions in the best interest of Reclamation Facilities. Invasive quagga and zebra mussels pose
a significant threat to the costs of operation of Reclamation dams, power plants, pumping
plants, and other water infrastructure. The aim is to detect the earliest stages of mussel
exposure or infestation at Reclamation reservoirs, so that response planning and budgeting for
protective measures can be initiated. The purpose of this proposal is to secure funding for the
Reclamation Mussel Detection Laboratory in Denver. To date, the detection research has been
useful for other exotic, threatened, and endangered species of concern to Reclamation. As the
laboratory research allows the laboratory to move to client based funding, the need for research
dollars will decrease. This is reflected in the budget request.

Need and Benefit

The two Dreissenid species currently found in the United States have a life cycle that ranges
from microscopic larvae to thumbnail size adults, and both have the ability to adapt to extreme
environmental conditions. Reclamation facilities were not built and designed with redundant
systems, which would allow operations to continue in the event that an invasive species such as
the mussels were introduced. Therefore, this invasive species has the ability to disrupt facility
operations. Based upon experience with zebra mussels in the eastern U.S., if mussels are
detected early, facility operators may have three to five years to plan, budget, and implement
protective measures before the population of mussels are large enough to clog pipes, water
intakes, drains, gates and trashracks, and thereby impair generation of hydropower and delivery
of water. In order to stay ahead of mussel infestations and to help guide preventative and
mitigation measures, Reclamation began a monitoring and detection program for many of its
reservoirs determined most at risk of mussel exposure and infestation. The aim is to detect the
earliest stages of mussel exposure or infestation at Reclamation reservoirs, so that response
planning and budgeting for protective measures can be initiated. If microscopic mussel larvae
are detected early in a reservoir, potentially several years may be available for response actions
to be taken prior to full infestation of facilities. Early actions may also be taken to prevent the
spread of mussels to other water bodies.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

RDLES (final, PDF, 2.2MB)
By Diane Mench
Research Product completed on September 30, 2018

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17