MTPR

SubSurface: Resisting Montana's Underwater Invaders

  • Hosted by Nicky Ouellet

Montana was invaded last summer. Not by land, not by air, but by water. A microscopic alien showed up in water samples from the Tiber Reservoir, opening the door to a wide range of potentially devastating impacts for Montana's fisheries, outdoor enthusiasts and industries.

What happens if Montana fails to stop the coming invasion of zebra and quagga mussels threatening the state's water bodies? MTPR's Nicky Ouellet looks into Montana's future (or one possible future) to see how the invasive mussels changed the Great Lakes region, and examines Montana's efforts to detect and prevent their spread.

Learn more about Montana's underwater invaders, on SubSurface, a new podcast from Montana Public Radio. Tune in to the five-episode series right here on MTPR, or wherever you get your podcasts, starting November 20.

 

Mussels on a rock at Geneva Lake in Wisconsin.
Nicky Ouellet

We’ve heard in previous episodes what it’s like to live with invasive zebra and quagga mussels: the costs they can impose, the changes they bring, the clarity they leave in their wake. We learned how they spread, and how managers are working to stay in front of their advances into Big Sky Country. But what if they get here anyway? What are options then? And what does this invasion mean for the landscape? For us? Today in the fourth episode of SubSurface, we’re looking at Plan B, and thinking about what the mussel invasion tells us about ourselves. This is Active Resistance.

A pile of mussels shells from a lake in Wisconsin.
Nicky Ouellet

  

Everyone agrees that the goal is to stop invasive zebra and quagga mussels from spreading, but there isn’t consensus on how to do that. This is where Montana is right now. There are a lot of different groups — state, tribal, federal, local and non-government — working to keep the mussels out, but they’re all working under different systems, with different rules to follow and different ideas about how to move forward.

Today we’re asking: Where are we cooperating, and where are we entangled in bureaucracy? This is SubSurface episode three: Shell Games.

A mussel and bait dump at an infested lake in Minnesota
Nicky Ouellet

Today, we’re diving into what we know about the mussels - what are they, where did they come from, how did they get here? What can we do to stop them from spreading? We’re trying to understand how those microscopic mussel babies ended up in two Montana reservoirs last summer -- and what our options are if more of them arrive. In this episode we’re tackling the Science of Spread.

This sign from Minnesota gives a glimpse into one possible future if invasive mussels become established in Montana.
Nicky Ouellet

This is "SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders." I’m Nicky Ouellet, and in our first episode I’m taking us to the Midwest, to lakes where people have been fighting invasive zebra and quagga mussels for decades, to hear, see and smell what could become Montana’s mussel-encrusted future if a full-blown infestation happens here. These stories are reporting from the future.

Do you have a question about Montana's underwater invaders? Want to know more about how zebra and quagga mussels spread, how Montana is confronting the problem, or how states like Wisconsin and Minnesota are dealing with them? Leave your questions in the comment section here, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. We'll do our best to answer them, and may include your question in a future episode.

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