Mussels in MSU Lab to Provide Clean Waters in New Zealand

Aug 6, 2019

Freshwater mussels, about 6-8 weeks old

Below the surface and in the clear water, mussels abound. In Missouri alone, there are at least 60 species of mussels that are actively keeping our waterways clean.

Dr. Chris Barnhart, distinguished professor of biology at Missouri State University, is an international expert on freshwater mussels. He knows their ecological value as filter feeders and helps to replenish populations where they have been depleted.

In his lab at Missouri State, he is growing freshwater mussels that will restore a New Zealand lake. The mussels will remove algae, bacteria and suspended sediment, taking it from murky to beautiful.

But more than the beauty, it will make the lake a viable ecosystem for plant, animals and insects that have found it uninhabitable in recent years.

Dr. Chris Barnhart and his wife, Debra, meet with a leader of the Maori people

Before beginning the work in New Zealand, Barnhart's team had to meet with leaders of the native people, the Maori, to gain access to the lake.

"We had to meet with the Maori and ceremonially ask their permission to invade their lake and do the things we want to do," he said. "The Maori only got there about 700 years ago. The pristine state in New Zealand is much closer historically than you might think."