Sampling freshwater mussel gut microbiomes in the Great Lakes

In June 2022, Hannah Collins and Tyler Griffin from the Ward Environmental Physiology Lab went to Buffalo, NY, to perform research on the gut microbiomes of freshwater quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis). The three-day trip involved collecting these invasive mussels from Lake Erie with the help of Brian Haas at the Buffalo State Great Lakes Center field station. The goal of the project, funded by an NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grant, was to sample mussel gut microbes before and after defecation with the goal of distinguishing between microbes that live inside the mussels and other microbes that were simply passing through. This work serves as preliminary research for the larger goal of investigating the feasibility of using freshwater mussels to remove microplastics from freshwater systems and co-concentration them with plastic-degrading bacteria.

PhD student Hannah Collins taking samples of mussel guts for microbiome analyses (Photo: Tyler Griffin)

quagga mussels
Invasive Quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis)

niagara river
View over the Niagara River in June 2022