Zebra Mussels - Rochester, NY area 


Consider how profoundly the invasive species Zebra Mussels have affected our area.    

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Page Contents: Zebra Mussels NewsLinks | Discussions | Resources |



Zebra Mussels at Cayuga Lake Zebra mussels, Dreissena polymorpha, are small, fingernail-sized, freshwater mollusks accidentally introduced to North America via ballast water from a transoceanic vessel.

Since their introduction in the mid 1980s, they have spread rapidly to all of the Great Lakes and an increasing number of inland waterways in the United States and Canada.

This invasive species represents what happens when an invasive species takes hold in a area, as I have watched the progress of this species since the mid 1980's. 

Now many of our lakes have been redefined by the Zebra Mussel, their ecology forever changed.  

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Zebra Mussels Discussions

Rochester area has been trying to deal with the spread of Zebra Mussels for a long time and the battle is symptomatic of how difficult these large invasive species outbreaks are to curb, even when you know they are coming.

  • Solving Invasive Problems This story about VHS describes perfectly how difficult it is going to be to curb the problem of invasive species and disease in the Great Lakes because ultimately without public support all the regulations and laws in the world won’t stop this kind of disease spread. Like the spread of Zebra Mussels and even HIV, it only takes a single carrier to infect another lake or person. Prevention, making sure that diseases like VHS don’t get into our waters seems to be the best solution and many communities are working on that—though again single communities, or in the case of the Great Lakes even a single state or country will not stop another state of country with lax laws from invasive species spreading.  more...

Zebra Mussels NewsLinks

Over the years attempts at combating the Zebra Mussel problem has been reflected in the news.


  • Telecoupling and the spillover system: Causes and effects of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes Examining the impacts of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and beyond. The telecoupling framework is designed to help us explain how the world works by examining the interactions between socioeconomic and environmental systems locally and across long distances. The knowledge we gain from the telecoupled system will allow us to develop a more sustainable world because it lets gives us the whole picture concerning a certain issue allowing us to apply that knowledge to future problems. As discussed in previous articles the telecoupling framework can be used to help us better understand how distant interactions can impact us and the environment locally. We have already discussed the sending and receiving systems in relation to the Soviet grain trade and how they may have resulted in the introduction of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) to the Great Lakes (O’Neil 1994). Now, we examine the zebra mussel spillover system that was created in the Great Lakes region and its eventual spread through much of the U.S. by trade interactions and unknowing boaters. Within the telecoupling framework spillover systems are defined as “systems that affect and/or are affected by the interactions between sending and receiving systems” (Liu et al. 2013). Spillover systems also are broken down into a cause and effect relationship that is facilitated or impeded by agents involved in the system. The introduction of zebra mussels has led to a number of spillover systems in the Great Lakes, including their rapid spread out of the state and a fundamental alerting of the water in the lakes. For the zebra mussel the effects are felt in both the socioeconomic and environmental aspects of life. (September 4, 2015) Michigan State University Extension [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • FLEXING THEIR MUSSEL The bivalves that ate the Great Lakes are fueling toxic algal blooms, too. Can’t we get rid of them already? David “Bo” Bunnell trawls the bottom of Lake Michigan for fish every summer, conducting a survey that began 40 years ago. Around the mid-aughts, the fisheries ecologist started dragging tiny mussels in with his net. These weren’t zebra mussels, whose stripes he’d become familiar with ever since the stowaways from Russia filled the lake with their kind in the late 1980s. These were smaller, with comma-shaped shells. At first they popped up here and there, but over the years they appeared in more and more samples. Eventually the brown bivalves, called quagga mussels, were clogging Bunnell’s trawl, 400 to 500 pounds at a time, preventing him from catching the fish he needed to count and identify. His curiosity about the creatures soured. (June 4, 20150 OnEarth [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]


  • Zebra, quagga mussels trump pollution as change agents in lake erie Over the last half century, Lake Erie has been known for its level of pollution and its population of invasive species. Of the two, the invasive species seems to have had the greater effect on the lake's zoobenthic community. That community—creatures living on, near, or below the bottom of the lake—is "fundamentally changed from its past," according to a paper published online in the current journal of the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Lyubov Burlakova, who works with the Great Lakes Center at SUNY Buffalo State, is the first author. The coauthors are Alexander Y. Karatayev, director of the center; Christopher Pennuto, a research associate with the center and biology professor at Buffalo State; and Christine Mayer, associate professor of ecology at the University of Toledo. "The story of Lake Erie shows how profoundly human activity can affect an ecosystem," said Burlakova. She traces that activity as far back as the early 1800s, when people cut down forests and built sawmills and dams. In 1918, the first report documenting the deterioration of water quality was published by the International Joint Commission. (July 16, 2014) Phys.org [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • Pesticide experiment raises hopes of killing zebra mussels Scientists for the first time in Wisconsin plan to use a bacteria to kill zebra mussels — in this instance, in a Florence County lake. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey want to apply the biological pesticide next month to sections of Keyes Lake in the hope of killing off zebra mussels that have attached themselves to native mussel beds. If experiments prove successful, the treatment could one day be a tool to control the spread of destructive zebra and quagga mussels, both invasive species. Zebra mussels were discovered in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, and turned up in inland Wisconsin lakes in 1994. They can now be found in 163 lakes and rivers in the state, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Quagga mussels are in the Great Lakes, but have not yet invaded inland lakes of Wisconsin. The pair of tiny, sharp-shelled species devour plankton, disrupting ecosystems. They proliferate in areas by the tens of thousands and push out native species, clog water intake systems and play a role in spurring algae blooms. (June 11, 2014) Milwaukie - Wisconsin Journal Sentinel [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • Zebra mussel-killing bacteria could help native species in the Great Lakes A treatment that kills zebra and quagga mussels could soon be available for use in lakes and rivers. It’s very effective and safe. But it is not likely to undo much of the ecological damage done to Michigan waters by invasive mussels. (April 1, 2014) Michigan Radio [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • Science Takes On a Silent Invader Since they arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s, two species of mussels the size of pistachios have spread to hundreds of lakes and rivers in 34 states and have done vast economic and ecological damage. These silent invaders, the quagga and zebramussels, have disrupted ecosystems by devouring phytoplankton, the foundation of the aquatic food web, and have clogged the water intakes and pipes of cities and towns, power plants, factories and even irrigated golf courses. Now the mussels may have met their match: Daniel P. Molloy, an emeritus biologist at the New York State Museum in Albany and a self-described “Bronx boy who became fascinated by things living in water.” (February 24, 2014) International New York Times [more on Zebra Mussels and Invasive Species in our area]
  • Grand Valley Study: Zebra Mussels, Algae Blooms Tied MUSKEGON (WWJ) – Researchers at Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute are finding that harmful algae blooms in two West Michigan lakes are linked to the water-clarifying action of the invasive species zebra mussels. Postdoctoral researcher Geraldine Nogaro and AWRI director Alan Steinman studied the impact that invasive zebra mussels and native chironomid larvae have on nutrient releases in Muskegon Lake and Bear Lake. While studying the mussels, Nogaro and Steinman noted that filter feeding and excretion activity by invasive mussels stimulated nutrient releases in the water column. The other subject of the research was the impact of native chironomids, which are insect larvae that live in the sediment on the lake bottoms. The researchers found the chironomids burrowed into the sediment, moving water and oxygen into the sediment and increased the levels of nutrients released into the sediment porewater and water column. (February 12, 2014) CBS Detroit [more on Zebra Mussels in our area


  • Study Shows Zebra Mussels Resistant To Deadly Toxin Already known as a menace around the Great Lakes, with a “Tribble-like” capacity to reproduce, zebra musselsare unaffected by a deadly toxin that wipes out other freshwater mussels, according to a new study in the Journal of Proteome Research. When blue-green algae flourish in freshwater, they release a toxin that stresses and weakens most freshwater mussels, but not zebra mussels. Study researchers said the finding is bad news for biodiversity and for water-related industries that consider the prolific species to be a menace. According to the scientists, zebra mussels’ ambivalence to the toxins allows them to thrive in their watery ecosystem better than other freshwater mussels – to the point where they overrun their competition. “Zebra mussels live in large colonies in the Great Lakes in the United States, and they are a huge problem,” saidClaudia Wiegand, an associate professor of environmental stress physiology and aquatic toxicology at the University of Southern Denmark. “They need something hard to attach themselves to and often they find a suitable surface on the inside of the pipes carrying water from the Great Lakes into factories and other industries along the lake. Often they sit so close that they block the water intake.” (October 3, 2013) Red Orbit [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • Using the Law to Battle Zebra Mussels and Other Unwanted Pests DENTON — Every two months, Christopher J. Churchill, a United States Geological Survey biologist, scuba dives in Ray Roberts Lake, northwest of Dallas, to monitor the growth rates of zebra mussels, which have wreaked havoc on several Texas lakes and rivers. “A year ago, it was hard to find just one zebra mussel,” Mr. Churchill said. “They’re everywhere now.” Mr. Churchill’s assignment follows the discovery in 2009 of the nonnative zebra mussels in Lake Texoma in North Texas. That year, the area lost 28 percent of its water supply when local officials halted pumping water from the lake for fear of spreading the mussels through a pipeline that pumped water to a second reservoir, which is connected to a water treatment facility. (August 10, 2013) New York Times [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]


  • Zebra mussels are transforming the Great Lakes and fueling rampant algae growth EMPIRE -- Ron Long recently visited one of his favorite beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, only to find it marred by dark green algae that clouded the water and piled up on the sand. "This is the worst I’ve ever seen this beach -- and I’ve been coming here for 50 years. It’s really sad," said Long, a Milford resident who was visiting the popular Esch Road beach near Empire.  (August 28, 2012)  MLive [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]


  • Report says mussels, nutrients damage Great Lakes - WSJ.com TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A one-two punch of excessive nutrients and ravenous mussels is causing a sharp drop-off in Great Lakes fish populations and the worst outbreak of algae blooms in decades, says a report released Tuesday. Runoff from farms, city parking lots and other sources is causing a flood of nutrients such as phosphorus in near-shore areas and bays, the National Wildlife Federation said in a report based on government and university studies. Meanwhile, deeper waters are experiencing the opposite problem: Invasive quagga and zebra mussels are gobbling too much food, causing fish higher up the chain to go hungry.  (October 6, 2011) Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal - Wsj.com  [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]
  • Gut wrencher: Researchers seek magic bullet to control mussels Scientists have identified a new weapon to ward off two troublesome Great Lakes invaders: A bacterium strain that destroys their guts. It may prove to be an environmentally friendly and effective method of controlling quagga and zebra mussels. Introduced to the lakes in the 1980s, the mussels eat up things like phytoplankton – food that native fish and other life depend upon. (January 15, 2011) Great Lakes Echo - Environmental news across the basin [more on Zebra Mussels in our area]





  • Suspect No.1: Zebra mussels Residents have reported a large number of mussel shells washing up on the shore of Canandaigua Lake. Nearly all signs point to the dying off of zebra mussels as the cause of a persistent white foam on Canandaigua Lake. (Friday, November 16, 2001) Daily Messenger
  • Lake foam may come from dead zebra mussels Officials still have to conduct more tests on the foam floating on Canandaigua Lake. Recent tests in Canandaigua Lake suggests heavy foam buildup may be due to decaying zebra mussels. (Wednesday, September 26, 2001) Daily Messenger
  • Lake clarity improves with help The view into Canandaigua Lake is much clearer due to the eating habits of zebra mussels. People swimming in Canandaigua Lake may notice how easy it is to see their toes in water that's up to their chins. (Tuesday, August 28, 2001)Daily Messenger
  • New zebra mussel risk cited Lake George-- Study finds conditions ripe for infestation to spread Just when it appeared that scientists were winning the fight against zebra mussels in Lake George, a new study says that the prolific mollusk could invade as many as 19 more locations around the lake. (March 29, 2001) Times Union
  • Mussels clear divers' vision OSWEGO, N.Y. -- The scourge of lakefront residents, the zebra mussel is proving to be one of divers' best friends.  (March 4, 2001) - -DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE



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