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Freshwater Mussels of West Virginia: Life History and Identification

ID : 38827   
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Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled taxonomic groups in the world.  North America holds the highest diversity among the world population, with close to 300 recognized mussel taxa. However, the North American continent also holds the greatest number of imperiled mussel species. Much of this diversity as well as many of the associated threats is concentrated in the Eastern and Southeastern United States.  For this reason and many others, increased awareness, monitoring, research and protection of this group is critical. 

The WVU Natural History Museum will be offering a professional development course titled “Freshwater Mussels of West Virginia: Life History and Identification” to be taught by mussel biologist Janet Clayton of the WV DNR. The course consists of one week of intensive work on all aspects of freshwater mussels. Topics include species identification, life history, ecology, conservation status, and management. The class will feature both lectures and hands-on identification of the freshwater mussels found in West Virginia’s waters (see class outline below). The class fills a need for many natural resource professionals from a variety of state and private agencies to be taught the skills they need to assess streams and rivers for this sensitive taxa and its habitat.

While a test will be offered at the end of the course, the course is not designed to provide the novice the knowledge and experience to immediately become certified to conduct mussel surveys in WV.  It is designed to give the novice a starting point in learning techniques for identification of mussels in WV. You would then take that knowledge and hopefully work with more experienced surveyors to continue to develop your experience.
For those experienced individuals working in other parts of North America, this class will give you a chance to study shell forms found within WV and the upper Ohio River Basin. If upon passing the identification test and meeting the experience criteria, you may be certified to work in WV streams.
The course will be taught at the North Bend State Park ( located in Harrisville, WV. The resort offers food and lodging to accommodate needs of class participants traveling from a distance. 

Refund Policy

100% refund up to one week prior to class start date. Participants are responsible for canceling accomodations at North Bend State Park.


Additionally, you will need to make arrangements for your own accommodations (Rooms will be blocked under WVUNH Mussel Class at North Bend State Park.) (304) 643-2932
  • Includes 2 afternoon snacks
  • Breakfast items available at minimal cost
  • Lunch option will be offered at $12.
  Supper will be on your own.

Contact Information

Donna Hartman
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
WVU Natural History Museum
PO Box 6125
Morgantown, WV 26506-6125

WV Certified Mussel Surveyor

All mussels are protected in the State of West Virginia thus any construction activities such as construction of pipeline crossings on mussel streams first require a mussel survey.  You must be certified to be able to conduct such surveys.  Certification is in two parts. 
  • Identification Testing
    • Approved for endangered species streams:  overall score of 85% and score 100% on the endangered species. 
    • Non-endangered mussel streams: overall score of 85%. 
    • The test is closed book and closed shell (simulating live condition).
  • Experience and References
    • Endangered species streams:  at least 3 years of field experience conducting surveys similar to the WV Mussel Survey Protocol and acceptable references.
    • Non-endangered species streams:  at least 2 years of field experience conducting surveys similar to the WV Mussel Survey Protocol and acceptable references.

Course Outline

Course Introduction / Overview
  • Taxonomic classification, nomenclature and common names.
  • Exotic and native look-alikes.
  • Definitive physical characteristics and contrasts with similar taxa.
  • Worldwide species distribution and current status in North America.
Freshwater Mussel Diversity, Life History, Reproduction and Development Across Species
  • Overview of species habitats and behaviors.
  • History of classification and systematics of WV families.
  • Description of key features. 
  • Description of nomenclature and functions associated with mussel physiology.
  • Introduction to life history information.
  • Components in FW Mussel reproduction.
  • Descriptions of diversity of Life history strategies and Interactions related to host fish attraction and capture across species.
  • Early life stage development.
Identification and Description of WV and Regional Species
  • Taxonomy and identification of key features.
  • Life history, distribution and habitat of WV and regional species.
Field Techniques for Sampling: Location, Collection and Monitoring of Mussels
  • Practical, biological and statistical and logistical considerations and goals for field studies.
  • Sampling designs and techniques to meet data collection and analysis goals. 
  • Legal requirements.
  • Preservation and cataloging of specimens.
Contemporary History of Exploitation by Humans
  • Early uses by Native Americans.
  • Development of pearl button industry and rapid decline in freshwater mussel populations.
  • Development of use as cultured pearls.
  • Role of FW mussels in aquatic environment.
  • Role as bio-indicators.
Impacts of Current and Historic Water Pollution and Habitat Disturbance
  • Descriptions of local impacts Specific (acid mine drainage).
  • Role of Federal legislation (CWA) on water quality and habitat sustainability as well as the role of individual State regulations.
  • Role of Endangered Species Act listings for FW mussels.
  • Ongoing threats impacts to water quality, habitat degradation and illegal harvest.
Examples and Challenges of Mussel Restoration
  • Techniques and regulations associated with relocation and reintroduction.
  • Techniques and examples of freshwater mussel propagation.

Class Details

5 Sessions
Weekly - Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri

North Bend State Park

MultipleInstructor :
1.Donna Hartman2.Janet Clayton 



Registration Closes On
Thursday, February 21, 2019 @ 11:59 PM

Schedule Information

Date(s) Class Days Times Location Instructor(s) Instructional Method
2/25/2019 - 3/1/2019 Weekly - Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM Cairo, North Bend State Park  Map, Room: WV North Bend State Park Janet Clayton  ; Donna Hartman  ClassRoom