Coffee with Corey: Mussels and Coffee Mugs

By Corey Poole

Did you know the Louisiana Pearlshell Mussel is a federally threatened species?

Let me start at the beginning… I’m always meeting new people, so when I took a pottery class at Northwestern State University back in 2020 I met Lindsey Adams, a spinner of beautiful coffee mugs and a Fish Biologist at the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery. Lindsey leads the Freshwater Mussel propagation program, primarily working with Louisiana Pearlshell Mussel.

Working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife since 2015, Lindsey’s degree is in biology with an emphasis on fisheries and aquatics. Her passion is in the work she does with freshwater mussels. Her current passion project is a recovery program she’s working on with the Louisiana Pearlshell Mussels. Sure there are other genuses that are similar, but the mussels Lindsey works with aren’t found anywhere else in the world, just in Grant and Rapides parishes.

They’re so small you need a microscope to harvest them. This is because freshwater mussels have a unique parasitic life stage. The larvae need to attach to the gills of a host, specifically grass water pickerels. Once they’ve reached their juvenile stage and drop off the gills, they’re collected and raised at the fish hatchery until they can be released back into waterways within their historic range where their numbers are declining.

So why are these little mussels so important? They’re considered ecosystem indicators, so if their numbers are declining, it means something else in the waterway is wrong. This could be pollution, increased sedimentation from farming or poor infrastructure, or habitat fragmentation such as dams or culverts.

The transfer from Michigan to Natchitoches was a bit of a shock for Lindsey when she took her position with the fish hatchery. She had the option between the City of Lights and San Marcos, Texas. A quick Google search, and a movie night with Steel Magnolias helped Lindsey make up her mind.

It was late June when she arrived, so as we all know, it was hot as shit in Louisiana. Besides the heat, there was definitely some culture shock for Lindsey to work her way through. Things are a lot slower in this small Southern town than she’s used to and there are definitely not enough breweries to explore.

But being an avid nature enthusiast, she quickly discovered the trails of Kisatchie National Forest and the Grady Erwin Nature Area. She enjoys hiking, camping, sports, and fishing.

Fishing has been a hobby her entire life. As a kid riding her bike to the river with her pole and tackle box, Lindsey never would have imagined that she could turn something she had an interest in, into a tangible pathway for her future career.

She originally wanted to go into psychology, but school wasn’t working out. She took one class at the Central Michigan University Biological Station on Beaver Island and met some really great people who introduced her to the possibility of a fisheries degree. P.S. It’s not just for Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin.

Lindsey is glad that life in Natchitoches is returning to normal after dealing with the pandemic. She’s grateful for the opportunity to get back to working with the community. One of her favorite activities is teaching kids at the Natchitoches Parish Library about biology. It doesn’t hurt that she brings a snapping turtle for show and tell. The hatchery plans to get more involved in the local school system and has also teamed up with Legacy Cafe and its community garden to provide some fresh veggies for its gopher tortoise program.

But let’s get back to the pottery! Lindsey first took a sculpture class in 2009, then a wheel/throwing class in 2012. Fast forward to 2020 when we met at the NSU pottery class. Lindsey was getting back into it to see if she loved doing it as much as she loved thinking about it. 

She ordered her own wheel during the pandemic lockdown and pottery quickly became a full blown obsession. She sells a variety of her mugs at StoryBrew Coffee Cafe on Front Street and is hoping to become a vendor at the Natchitoches Farmers Market.

“It’s really cathartic,” she explained. “You get to see your productivity happening right in front of you.”

Why coffee mugs? She’s loved these caffeine containers since she was little and it just seems like, every time she goes to make a plate or a bowl, she ends up with 10 coffee mugs.

“I just go with the flow of the clay and make what it wants me to make,” she added.

When asked for a piece of advice others might benefit from, Lindsey shared this: Everyone can teach you something. These wise words from an old college professor have helped her be more present with people.