CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tenn. (WYMT) - More than 5,000 mussels were released into the Powell River in nearby Claiborne County, Tennessee.
Lincoln Memorial University students are part of the project to bring back the endangered species.
Biologists say the Powell River in Tennessee is one of the most diverse rivers in the country, but something is missing. Biologists say oyster mussels were lost twenty years ago.
"They filter the water and help clean and clarify the water, and they also serve as a food base for other species in the river, fishes, otters, muskrats, other animals like that," said Jess Jones, Restoration Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
So they are trying to bring them back. Tuesday, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials and students from LMU and Virginia Tech released more than five thousand mussels into the river.
"And because they're endangered, we're trying to build their populations back up," said Jones.
The project started several years ago. The mussels were grown at Virginia Tech the past two years. LMU students GIS mapped the river to determine the best places to release them.
"This is a big thing to be happening here to be a part of, and I'm definitely grateful for the opportunity," said Anthony Daniel Greene, LMU student.
The project does not end with the release. They tagged some of the mussels and plan to monitor them and mark their progress for years.
"We hope over time these populations will build up, and they'll be self sustaining so they can take care of themselves in the river," said Jones.
Officials say this project will benefit the community and give students a valuable science lesson at the same time.