Last month, NOAA divers collected zebra and quagga mussels at multiple sites around Lake Ontario as part of an NCCOS-led effort to characterize contaminants in designated areas of concern. The non-indigenous mussels are a good tool for contaminant monitoring due to their high water-filtering capacity, propensity to bioaccumulate chemical contaminants with limited ability to metabolize them, sedentary habits, and widespread distribution on hard substrates in the region. The researchers from NCCOS, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) collect these species throughout the Great Lakes in support of NOAA’s NCCOS Mussel Watch Program.
NCCOS will analyze the mussels sampled for chemical contaminants (EPA priority pollutants and emerging chemicals of concern), microplastics, and biological health indicators of stress (DNA damage, abnormal metabolites, and other biomarkers). The results of the analysis will also be predictive of the state of other Great Lakes species, such as sport fish and waterfowl. Divers from NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) partnered with GLERL to provide vessel and dive support to the NCCOS sampling mission.