Conservation work in local rivers improving quality of Chicago's waterways

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Rivers are the source of life for all things, and researchers from Shedd Aquarium are ensuring that rivers in the Chicagoland area are healthy enough to support the surrounding ecosystems.

Each researcher at Shedd has a distinct area of study, helping to make up a mosaic of research topics in the Great Lakes region. Biologist Kentaro Inoue focuses on freshwater mussels in local waterways.

"Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered animals in North America because (the) habitat is degrading, and water quality is declining," Inoue said.

This summer, Inoue is focused on studying a small portion of the Kishwaukee River, which is densely populated by a dozen species of freshwater mussels. His work is a collaboration with the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District.

"I think Shedd is the ideal place for freshwater mussel research because we have good connections with local conservation organizations," Inoue said.

Within the city of Chicago, biologist Austin Happel is focused on fish larvae within the Chicago river, which Happel calls "the most urbanized river in the world." Happel has found a biodiversity "hotspot" in the south part of the Chicago River.

"We're in an amazing position to study this awesome resource in our backyard." Happel said.

"Conservation in the Great Lakes" is episode 11 of "An Ocean On The Lake," the multi-part behind-the-scenes series from ABC 7 Chicago and Shedd Aquarium. This episode showcases the ways that Shedd is helping support local rivers and ecosystems in the Chicago area. Find every episode on our homepage for "An Ocean On The Lake," or watch on our ABC 7 Chicago connected TV App.
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