Tennessee Aquarium helping endangered species

Science Programs Manager Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris and Reintroduction Assistant Fabiola Lopez Avila (from left) herd fishes into a seine net in South Chickamauga Creek. This waterway is full of a wide variety of macroinvertebrates and fishes. / Source: (Casey Phillips/Tennessee Aquarium)
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee Aquarium has hired muscles for mussels in their effort to raise fish to benefit endangered native mollusks.

The aquarium joined forces with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to help with the host-less offspring of four endangered species of native bivalves.

“They reached out to the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute because we are well-known for raising fishes,” says Aquarium Science Programs Manager Dr. Bernie Kuhajda. “They were hoping we could propagate some fish for them to use in raising their mussels.”

A group of freshwater specialists waded into the South Chickamauga Creek to bring about two dozen Common Logperch to their facility near Chatt's downtown.

“That was definitely the easiest collecting trip I’ve ever been on. It doesn’t get much better than that,” says Aquarium Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris. “It’s really encouraging to have a stream that has such a healthy level of biodiversity like South Chickamauga Creek right here in our backyard.”

The offspring of the Logperch should be large enough to be shipped off to the Cumberland River Aquatic Center by early next year.

The partnership between the two is expected to continue on for two years with new Logperch being sent with groups of fish who have been infected and their bivalve hangers-on detached.

"Recovery of threatened and endangered species requires collaborative conservation efforts, says Dr. Dan Hua, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Senior Scientist at the Cumberland River Aquatic Center. The fish host is critical in mussel propagation and restoration. Cooperating with our partners, such as the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, we will successfully keep the wheel running in this conservation journey."

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