MAILED: Sept. 24, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- Terry Balding, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, this summer teamed with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to continue his work with unionids. Unionids, or clams, have been among Balding's major fields of interest since 1986.
Balding, who has completed surveys for private consulting agencies, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the DOT identifying the types of species of unionids, the number of unionids and where unionids live in the Chippewa River, was asked this year to work in the area where the Chippewa and Flambeau rivers meet.
"The DOT wanted to build a bridge in that area," Balding said. "They asked me to move all of the clams in that area upstream so when they built the bridge they wouldn't hurt any of the clams."
By the time Balding was done, he had moved more than 29,000 clams upstream. In the process, he discovered 771 clams that were classified as rare.
"That number doesn't sound like very many," Balding said. "But the fact that 771 rare unionids were saved is very important."
While one of Balding's passions is working with clams, projects like these are not completed without problems, he said. For example, to move the clams, Balding had to dive to the bottom of the Chippewa River, which at some points reaches 15 feet deep.
"Because it's so deep, it is very dark at the bottom and very hard to see the clams," he said. "Also, another major problem is the current. You need to weigh yourself down to stay working in the place you want to work in."
Balding, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 30 years, said his passion for unionids came from a professor he had at Ohio State University.
"One of his specialties was unionids and I had grown up on the Mississippi around them, so he and I went out to that area of the Mississippi and I was very interested in them," Balding said. "He really gave me my start."
Teaching unionids doesn't fit in when Balding teaches classes such as "Birds and Mammals" and "General Zoology" but his students know about his love for clams.
"The students in my classes all know about my passion," he said. "I want to lend to the students the spirit to appreciate all of the wild creatures and talking about my love for unionids can help them appreciate all living things."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 25, 1997