HELENA – On Wednesday, Capital High School students had the opportunity to help protect Montana’s waterways from invasive species.

250 CHS Biology students participated in a citizen science zebra mussel monitoring project at Canyon Ferry Lake and Upper Holter Lake Reservoir.

The sophomores collected samples through plankton tows and examined areas where invasive mussels would likely grow. While doing the measurements the students had the chance to learn about invasive species and prevention techniques.

Data collected by the students will be shared with the U.S. Geological Survey and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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Organizer Jean Placko said that the best part of the project was getting to see her students get some real-world experience with biology.

“It’s amazing to see the difference in the lab work that they do in the field and when they know it means something versus when they’re doing it more as an exercise,” said Placko.

The state began intensive invasive species monitoring following the detection of invasive mussel larvae last fall.

 Since then no mussels have been detected in Montana waters.