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RiceUniversityinTexassaiditisstillinvestigatingtheactionsofMichaelDeem,whosenamewasonapaperHesenttoascientificpublication.DeemservedasHe'sadviserwhenheattendedRiceyearsago.TheAPandothershavereportedonotherscientistsinChinaandtheUnitedStateswhokneworstronglysuspectedwhatHewasdoing."Manypeopleknew,manypeopleencouragedhim.Hedidnotdothisinacorner,"Hurlbutsaid.Scientistsareinvestigatingamassivedie-offofmusselsinamajorriverinthesoutheasternUnitedStates.Theyhopetolearnthecause.In2016,fishandwildlifeofficialsdiscoveredabigdropinthemusselpopulationintheClinchRiver.Theriverflowsabout480kilometersthroughthestatesofVirginiaandTennessee.Itishometomanydifferentkindsoffishand46speciesofmussels.Whilefreshwatermusselsaresmall,theyperformsomeimportantactivitiestokeeprivershealthy.Musselscancleanupupto38litersofriverwatereachday,removingalgae,metalsandothermaterials.Theprocesscancreateabetterriverenvironmentforfish,amphibians,plantsandinsects.Forthisreason,scientistsareworkingtofindthecauseofthelargedropinmusselpopulations.JordanRichardisabiologistwiththeU.S.FishandWildlifeService.HetoldTheAssociatedPressthatofficialshaveestimatedthathundredsofthousands,possiblyevenmillions,ofmusselshavediedintheClinchRiver.Themassdie-offintheriverofonekindofmussel,calledthepheasantshell,hasbeenespeciallyworrisome.Officialssaythepopulationofpheasantshellsdroppedfrom94,000in2016tolessthan14,000in2019.Theymeasuredthedecreasealonga200-meterstretchoftheClinchRiver.Similardie-offshavebeenreportedonatleastfiveU.S.riversandanotherinSpain.Richardhasstudiedreportsofsimilardie-offsovertheyearsinriversaroundtheworld.Butsofarhehasnotcomeupwithmanyanswersaboutwhytheyhappened.SpeakingabouttheClinch,RichardsaidtherivercouldevenbecomparedtotheAmazonbecauseitcontainssomanydifferentkindsoflife.HespoketotheAPwhileexaminingtheriver'smusselpopulationinaruralcommunityinTennessee.Musselpopulationsaroundtheworldhavedroppedsharplyoverthepast100years.Scientistsblamethisonpollution,habitatlossandclimatechange.Buttheysuspectthemostrecentdecreaseshaveanothercause.Richardandhisteambelieveaninfectiousdiseasecouldberesponsible.Theteamiscomparinghealthypheasantshellmusselstodyingonesinanattempttonarrowdownalistofpossiblediseases."Alllivingthingsarechock-fullofmicroorganisms,andwedon'thaveanysortofmapforwhatishealthyinsideamussel,"Richardsaid.UniversityofWisconsindiseasespecialistTonyGoldbergishelpingwiththeinvestigation.

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