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Greensboro Science Center expert reveals how mussels clean fresh water

Lindsey Zarecky is the VP of Conservation and Research at the Greensboro Science Center.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Interested in seeing wildlife? Visit the Greensboro Science Center. Interested in studying it? Visit Lindsey Zarecky.

"One of the things I work with is freshwater mussels and they clean water," Zarecky said. 

Zarecky studies freshwater mussels as the vice president of conservation and research at GSC.

"We call [the larger ones] our adults and we call the smaller ones we have our kiddos and even though they don't have eyeballs and don't talk to us," Zarecky said. "Every morning we turn the light on and say good morning to them."

Zarecky said most visitors aren't usually drawn to these underdogs of the ecosystem like she is. 

"Often we are drawn to the large, charismatic maybe sexy-looking animals," Zarecky said.

These freshwater mussels aren't big and definitely don't roar, but they do a mighty big job; they naturally clean our water by sitting in our streams.

"Our adult mussels are the species Elliptio complanata which is really quite common in North Carolina," Zarecky said.

As an expert on wildlife, Zarecky's every day may require her to travel to places like Mona Island near Puerto Rico. 

"We've been there and been able to watch the sunrise, watch the sunset and see the most beautiful stars at night because there is no one on the island," Zarecky said.

Research travel also has its pain.

"We have the Cacti forest and there was one day it reached 130 degrees," Zarecky said. "It actually melted the bottom of my shoes and the cacti needles pierced the bottom of my shoes and ripped the soles off."

A cringing story, but not the end to Zarecky's work. In less than a week, she's packing her bags and going on another research trip. She says failures are a part of science even ones that cost you your shoes.

"There is so much to learn when things don't work like you expect them to," Zarecky said.

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