Kaylee Faltys


Like many Fluvers, Kaylee has always been drawn to water. She grew up memorizing the names of sea creatures on posters plastered all over her bedroom walls, looking at water samples under her National Geographic microscope, and reading every book she could find on marine life. Trouble was, she grew up in Nebraska, more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean.

Undeterred by her landlockedness, Kaylee found her passion in college studying freshwater streams and rivers. As she learned more about aquatic ecology, Kaylee realized that there was a pretty big group of enigmatic animals that often go overlooked in conservation and restoration efforts: aquatic invertebrates. Although freshwater aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and other spineless wonders) have a huge role in the functioning of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, they have rarely been a restoration or conservation priority.

After a year as a curator at a natural history museum and six years in the pharmaceutical industry, Kaylee decided to pursue her passion for aquatic life further at Inter-Fluve as a malacologist (a biologist who specializes in mollusks—mostly freshwater mussels in her case). Many species of mussels are critically endangered due to historic over-harvesting, habitat fragmentation and destruction, and unfavorable waterway modifications such as dams and channelization. Their importance has only recently been understood: mussels filter organic matter out of the water, deposit nutrients back to the water column and sediment for other organisms, are an important food source for a variety of creatures, and in dense assemblages, mussels can help stabilize streambeds and provide important habitat for algae and insect larvae.

When she isn’t searching through the muck for the elusive Purple Wartyback, Creek Heelsplitter, Elephant-ear, Pimpleback, Fatmucket, or Monkeyface (all real mussel names!), you can find Kaylee biking the hills of Wisconsin, swimming laps in the pool, skiing, reading, and enjoying life with family and friends.