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How you can protect our Great Lakes from the New Zealand mud snail this summer

New Zealand mud snail magnified crawling on a dime

New Zealand mud snail pictured crawling on a dime. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

Pest Patrol

icon of a calendarJune 15, 2018

icon of a pencilBy Emell Derra Adolphus

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Professor Scott Tiegs, Ph.D., at his desk, surrounded by potted plants, holding a mason jar

Professor Scott Tiegs, Ph.D.

Planning a fishing trip this summer? Be sure to look out for the New Zealand mud snail (pictured on dime). This invasive species may be small, about 1/8 inch, but it can be a big problem for our Great Lakes’ fresh water systems.

“We don’t want them to become the new zebra mussel,” says Scott Tiegs, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences. “Zebra mussels have literally caused billions of dollars in economic damage to the Great Lakes region.

They are a little mussel, but they have fundamentally altered the Great Lakes ecosystem.”

New Zealand mud snails can achieve densities of over 100,000 per square meter — which means there could easily be millions in one stream. The larger problem is that the snails compete with native macro invertebrate for food, which can have a detrimental effect on fish food and on fishing as a result. Last year, Dr. Tiegs received a $191,888 grant from the state of Michigan to establish a network of “citizen scientists” to monitor the snail’s presence for three years. Recently, the project received an additional $90,000 from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

To help spit the pin-sized pests, Tiegs has enlisted the help of local fly fisherman. But anyone out enjoying the waters this summer can help with the hunt.

“The Great Lakes region is the source of 20 percent of the world's fresh water, so we need to take good care of this,” says Dr. Tiegs. “When we introduce species like the mud snail that have such dramatic implications, I think we need to do something about it.”

If you find a New Zealand mud snail, report it at To learn about biological sciences at OU, visit

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