“I like crawling in the slime.”
That's how Mike Davis describes his passion for a project designed to return a once prevalent species of freshwater mussel known as the Higgins’ Eye to stretches of the Mississippi River where it has not been seen in decades.
A former commercial fisherman who was introduced to the river by his father, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, the 55-year-old Davis began looking into harvesting mussels when the prices they commanded soared in the 1980s. He then became interested in the riverbed creatures and eventually returned to college to complete his degree in marine biology.
In recent years, while working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Davis has assumed a leading role in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funded project to restore the Higgins’ eye, which involves lots of river diving and slime crawling to locate beds for replanting and to monitor those that have been replanted in previous years.
Davis also has organized the first systematic survey of freshwater mussels living in the state of Minnesota. At last count, the survey had identified 45 species, six of which may be extinct.