NC State University / College of Veterinary Medicine
Corbicula fluminea shown with Biobay Valve Gape Sensor (Nekton, LLC now I-Robot)

Our field and laboratory team conducts experimentally based monitoring and assessment studies. Freshwater bivalves separate both valves of their shell to siphon the water column, during the presentation of reproductive displays, and the release of larvae into the water column. The space, or gape, between the two shell halves (valves) can be measured with rather simple sensors. A group of bivalves feed asynchronously. However, when something noxious is released into the water, they will cease feeding synchronously. In this manner, gape measurements can serve as an early warning biologic indicator of the presence of contaminants in surface waters. Since the degree of valve gaping has a linear relationship to suspension feeding, respiration and pumping rate, the gape response can help measure the effects of pollutants introduced into the ecosystem. In this manner, freshwater bivalves can play an important role as biomonitors and support efforts to ensure the health of aquatic ecosystems, and their availability as a resource for aquatic fauna, a source of drinking water, and recreation. BioBay sensors were produced and developed by one of our partners (Nekton, LLC, I-Robot) and represent an evolution in the use of bivalve feeding activity for aquatic ecosystem monitoring.

Experimental data produced by the Valve Gape Sensor. Left graphic is an example of the mean response of the native Lampsilis radiata (n=16) across a laboratory simulated storm event. Right graphic is a field site example.
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