Hugo Ruellan is currently a graduate student in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) Department at the University of Illinois. He hopes that his research at the Illinois Natural History Survey will help to protect freshwater mussels in Illinois and beyond.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be wildlife photographer or a marine biologist as a kid because I was obsessed with Blue Planet and anything else involving David Attenborough.
What drew you to your current field of study?
Coming from Michigan, I’ve grown up around lake and river ecosystems. I would always go to the lake near my house and snorkel, trying to see what I could find swimming around. Then in college, I worked in a lab studying freshwater mussels and became fascinated with these adorable living rocks which serve such a key role in our rivers. Mussels are one of the most threatened taxa in North America, so being able to work on projects to protect them and the rivers we all use was a big plus.
What do you love about your work at PRI?
I love being able to work with so many experienced researchers in a wide range of fields. Getting their input and advice on the questions I have for my research is always interesting. The general atmosphere of PRI is very welcoming and friendly, so getting to work in a place where advisors and graduate students are just as interested to learn about your research as they are about their own has been a really motivating experience.
How will your work impact future generations?
I hope that my work will aid in protecting mussels in Illinois and hopefully the rest of the United States. Mussels are also heavily impacted by human behavior, whether that be runoff from farmland or cities, or dams blocking their distributions. I hope that my work will help people become more aware of how sensitive organisms like mussels are to what enters our rivers, and to become more involved in protecting rivers and keeping them clean.