Have you ever seen a freshwater mussel? Back in North Carolina, oh so many years ago, I did my Master's thesis project on mussels and did surveys for them during a couple later jobs. Freshwater mussels are very cool and I'm always on the lookout for them when I'm in a river or lake.
Last week I spent a day with various agency folks at a mussel workshop here in the Grande Ronde River in La Grande. It was really great to hang out with mussel folks again.
We suited up in drysuits and spent a couple hours snorkeling in the river, seeing what we could see. It was great. We saw tons of Western pearlshells, Margaritifera falcata.
It's one thing to go to the river and walk along the bank. Finding shells on shore is fun, even swimming in the river and finding live mussels is cool. But to put on a mask and actually see the river system from below the surface is like nothing else. You slide into a different world, where the fish are darting around in their three-dimensional space, the mussels are open and siphoning, the caddisfly larvae and snails are crawling around on the rocks, and a garter snake startles you as it weaves through the boulders as it crosses the river. It's an entirely different perspective.
One of the most fun parts was that I recently got a waterproof case for my iPhone (a Lifeproof Fre case). Yes, that picture up there was taken with an iPhone, underwater!
It was an act of faith, dunking my phone in the water that first time when I tested the case at home. I had tried the case without the phone first and knew it was waterproof, but still...