They’re not otters, but endangered mussels in Illinois play a crucial role as environmental sentinels. ‘They all have a story to tell.’

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

On a September afternoon that still felt like summer, a small group in boots and waders drove out to a creek near Elgin, sloshed through cold, bubbling water, knelt down and dug their bare hands into the ground. For hours. For days. And all for a mollusk.

Workers from the Shedd Aquarium and Cook County Forest Preserve District spent a few days this week searching Poplar Creek and tagging more than 100 freshwater mussels, a group researchers say is among the most endangered in the world.

But little is known about the unassuming creatures, some of which can live 100 years. So Kentaro Inoue, a Shedd research biologist who has studied mussels for years, is trying to figure out what kind of mussels are in the Chicago area, where they are, how they’re doing and ways they might be protected.

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