Remembering Mount St. Helens, After 39 Years

Remembering Mount St. Helens, After 39 Years  

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.  (Psalm 144:5)


Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption on May 18, AD1980   (public domain)


The first eruption of Mount St. Helens happened Sunday morning, May 18th of AD1980; that month I graduated (with an A.A.!) from Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland.  The seismic force of eruption was measured at 5.1, on the Richter magnitude scale, which is actually deemed a mere seismic “disruption”, not a seismic “disaster”, much less a seismic “catastrophe”.  Of course for those people who died, or lost their homes, it was a “catastrophe”.   Thousands of mammals (like elk and bear) died, as well as millions of salmon in destroyed hatcheries.

Being a grandfather of 9, I’m old enough to recall the eruptions of Mount St. Helens, during May of AD1980, especially since I took a summer course under Dr. Henry Morris (founding president of California’s Institute for Creation Research, teaching for what was then Christian Heritage College) only a few weeks later.  Dr. Morris called the Mount St. Helens eruptions (and the mudflows and sedimentary “pancake” layering deposited as a result, as “God’s gift to creation science” (or “God’s gift to Flood geology”), because its demonstrated, on  a small scale – in hours and days (not millions of years) – how a sedimentary layered canyon, like the Grand Canyon, could be formed catastrophically, with a lot of water and a lot of power, over a little bit of time – as opposed to requiring little bits of power repeated over imagined millions of years.

Specifically, the “Little Grand Canyon” of the Toutle River is a 1/40th scale comparable to the famous Grand Canyon of Arizona.  In other words, catastrophic geological processes that occurred during the Genesis Flood, like volcanic eruptions and flooding (including high-powered mudflows), can easily explain the water-blasted formation of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.  The key to understanding much of earth’s history, the apostle Peter reminds us (in 2nd Peter chapter 3), is the Genesis Flood.



Uniformitarianism is the assumption, made by many scientists (especially those with no forensic science background), that the usual events and processes of today’s world, that we can observe in the present, matches the events and processes of the no-longer-observable past.  In other words, uniformitarianism assumes that the “present is the key to (understanding) the past”.  This is wrong.  Actually, Scripture teaches us that knowing the truth about the past (which we can learn from Genesis and the other books of the Bible) is the key to understanding our present situation.  Why? Because our present situation is the result of past events – most of which we cannot observe or learn about directly, especially unique events like Creation, the Fall, and the worldwide Flood, as well as the life of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection.

For an example relevant to Mount St. Helens, consider Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Was it formed by slow and gradual natural processes over unobserved eons of “deep” time? Uniformitarian geoscientists propose “yes,” but Genesis records a globally catastrophic “no” in Genesis chapters 6-thru-9.


Mount St. Helens volcanic ash cloud looms over Othello, Washington   (Helen Hysjulien photo)

Consider this analysis by geologist Dr. Steve Austin, who repeatedly visited Mount St. Helens while it was active, and repeatedly researched its post-eruption conditions (and its amazingly powerful mudflows), after the eruptions during both AD1980 and AD1982.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980, is certain to be remembered as one of the most significant geologic events in the United States of the 20th century.

The explosion, on May 18, was initiated by an earthquake and rockslide involving one-half cubic mile of rock. As the summit and north slope slid off the volcano that morning, pressure was released inside the volcano – where super hot liquid water immediately flashed to steam. The northward-directed steam explosion released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, which toppled 150 square miles of forest in six minutes.

In Spirit lake, north of the volcano, an enormous water wave, initiated by one-eighth cubic mile of rockslide debris, stripped trees from slopes as high as 850 feet above the pre-eruption water level. The total energy output, on May 18, was equivalent to 400 million tons of TNT – approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.

On May 18 and also during later eruptions, critical energy thresholds were exceeded by potent geologic processes which were able to accomplish significant changes in short order. These processes challenge the traditional uniformitarian way of thinking about how the earth works, and serve as a miniature laboratory for catastrophism.

Institute for Creation Research scientists have spent three summers investigating the geologic changes which have occurred at the volcano. Four of the most significant discoveries are summarized in this short report.


Up to 400 feet thickness of strata have formed since 1980 at Mount St. Helens. These deposits accumulated from primary air blast, landslide, waves on the lake, pyroclastic flows, mudflows, air fall, and stream water. Perhaps the most surprising accumulations are the pyroclastic flow deposits amassed from ground-hugging, fluidized, turbulent slurries of fine volcanic debris, which moved at high velocities off the flank of the volcano as the eruption plume of debris over the volcano collapsed. These deposits include fine pumice ash laminae and beds from one millimeter thick to greater than one meter thick, each representing just a few seconds to several minutes of accumulation. A deposit accumulated in less than one day, on June 12, 1980, is 25 feet thick and contains many thin laminae and beds. Conventionally, sedimentary laminae and beds are assumed to represent longer seasonal variations, or annual changes, as the layers accumulated very slowly. Mount St. Helens teaches us that the stratified layers commonly characterizing geological formations can form very rapidly by flow processes. Such features have been formed quickly underwater in laboratory sedimentation tanks, and it should not surprise us to see that they have formed in a natural catastrophe.


Erosion during volcanic eruptions at Mount St. Helens was accomplished by scour from steam blast, landslide, water waves, hot pumice ash flows (pyroclastic flows), and mudflows. Since the eruptions, the erosion process has been dominated by sheet flooding and channelized flow of water, with occasional mudflows.

About 23 square miles of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley was obstructed by two-thirds cubic mile of landslide and pyroclastic debris, which has been rapidly eroded since 1980. Jetting steam from buried water and ice under hot pumice reamed steam explosion pits with associated mass-wasting processes at the margins of pits, producing rills and gullies over 125 feet deep. Photographic documentation assembled by ICR scientists demonstrates that very pronounced rills and gullies had formed at the margins of seam explosion pits before May 23 – less than five days after the pumice was deposited. The rills and gullies resemble badlands topography, which geologists have usually assumed required many hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

Mudflows, from Mount St. Helens, were responsible for the most significant erosion.

A mudflow on March 19, 1982, eroded a canyon system up to 140 feet deep in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley, establishing the new dendritic pattern of drainage. As ICR scientists surveyed this new terrain, they began to contemplate the processes which may have formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

The little “Grand Canyon of the Toutle River” is a one-fortieth scale model of the real Grand Canyon. [emphasis added]

The small creeks which flow through the headwaters of the Toutle River today might seem, by present appearances, to have carved these canyons very slowly over a long time period, except for the fact that the erosion was observed to have occurred rapidly! Geologists should learn that, since the long-time scale they have been trained to assign to landform development would lead to obvious error on Mount St. Helens, it also may be useless or misleading elsewhere.


The landslide generated waves on Spirit Lake stripped the forests from the slopes adjacent to the lake and created an enormous log mat, made up of millions of prone floating trunks that occupy about two square miles of the lake surface. These logs float freely as the wind blows them, and the decreasing size of the log mat indicates that the trees are gradually sinking to the lake floor. Careful observation of the floating log mat indicates that many trees float in upright position, with a root ball submerging the root end of the trunk, while the opposite end floats out of the water. Hundreds of upright floated and deposited logs have been grounded in shallow water along the shore of the lake. These trees, if buried in sediment, would appear to have been a forest which grew in place over hundreds of years, which is the standard geological interpretation for the upright petrified “forests” at Yellowstone National Park.

In order to get more information on the upright deposited logs in Spirit Lake, members of the ICR research team worked with Dr. Harold Coffin, of Geoscience Research Institute, to survey the lake bottom, using sonar and scuba. Hundreds of upright, fully submerged logs were located by sidescan sonar, and scuba divers verified that they were, indeed, trunks of trees which the sonar detected.

Extrapolating from the area of lake floor surveyed to the entire lake bottom, we estimate more than 19,000 upright stumps existed on the floor of the lake in August 1985. The average height of an upright deposited stump is 20 feet. Sonar records and scuba investigations verified that many of the upright deposited trees have root masses radiating away from the bases of the trunks. Furthermore, the trees are randomly spaced, not clumped together, over the bottom of the lake, again having the appearance of being an in situ forest. Scuba investigation of the upright deposited trunks shows that some are already solidly buried by sedimentation, with more than three feet of sediment around their bases, while others have no sediment around their bases. This proved that the upright trees were deposited at different times, with their roots buried at different levels.

If found buried in the stratigraphic record, these trees might be interpreted as multiple forests which grew on different levels over periods of thousands of years. The Spirit Lake upright deposited stumps, therefore, have considerable implications for interpreting “petrified forests” in the stratigraphic record.


The enormous log mat floating on Spirit Lake has lost its bark and branches by the abrasive action of wind and waves. Scuba investigations of the lake bottom showed that water-saturated sheets of tree bark are especially abundant on the bottom of the lake, where, in areas removed from volcanic sediment added from the lake shore, a layer of peat several inches thick has accumulated. The Spirit Lake peat resembles, both compositionally and texturally, certain coal beds of the eastern United States, which also are dominated by tree bark and appear to have accumulated beneath floating log mats.

Coal is supposed, conventionally, to have accumulated from organic material accumulated in swamps by growth in place of plants and burial. Because the accumulation of peat in swamps is a slow process, geologists have supposed that coal beds required about one thousand years to form each inch of coal.

The peat layer in Spirit lake, however, demonstrates that peat accumulate rapidly. Swamp peats, however, have only very rare bark sheet material because the intrusive action of tree roots disintegrates and homogenizes the peat. The Spirit Lake peat, in contrast, is texturally very similar to coal. All that is needed is burial and slight heating to transform the Spirit Lake peat into coal. Thus, at Spirit Lake, we may have seen the first stage in the formation of coal.


Mount St. Helens provides a rare opportunity to study transient geologic processes which produced, within a few months, changes which geologists might otherwise assume required many thousands [if not “millions”] of years.

The volcano, therefore, challenges our way of thinking about how the earth works, how it changes, and the time scale we are accustomed to attaching to its formations. These processes and their effects allow Mount St. Helens to serve as a miniature laboratory for catastrophism.

Mount St. Helens helps us to imagine what the Biblical Flood, of Noah’s day[s], may have been like.

[Quoting Steve Austin, “Mount St. Helens and Catastrophism”, ACTS & FACTS,  volume 15, issue 7 (July 1986), posted at .]


Volcanic ash blanket form Mount St. Helens eruption   (Vintage News photo)

For those with eyes to see, the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens illustrates how sudden and drastic geological change can occur, and why uniformitarian canyon-formation assumptions fail.


Mount St. Helens devastated the landscape, killing people, animals, trees  (Pinterest photo)

Many eyewitnesses observed, and cameras recorded, how a 1/40-scale-model version of Grand Canyon was violently formed within just a few days, during AD1980 (and later again in AD1982, just 2 years after Mount St. Helens’ AD1980 explosion), disproving the notion that such stratified-rock-layered canyons require “millions of years” to form their “evolution”-facilitated pancaked layers (of mud-hardened-into-sedimentary-rock).


“Little Grand Canyon of the Toutle River” (photo by Dr. Steve Austin)
[see also Steve Austin, “Mount St. Helens and Catastrophism” (1986),
posted at ]

So why are uniformitarians reluctant to appreciate catastrophic canyon formation? They continue to assume that “today’s present world is the key to understanding the past”, especially unique events that occurred in the ancient world. Today, both Mount St. Helens and Grand Canyon appear peaceful. But the relatively non-catastrophic natural processes operating today are not trustworthy guides for understanding past geological events such as Mount St. Helens’ eruption, or the Genesis Flood, or the Ice Age.  But there is more, much more, that uniformitarian thinking gets wrong.

Uniformitarians also assume (like atheists) that God is operationally absent  — or else they assume (like Deists) that God is relatively uninvolved, from what occurs in nature. They willfully ignore (to use the apostle Peter’s words) the many physical and historical evidences of His Creatorship (and of the global Flood), as they act as if God wasn’t (and isn’t) obviously active in, and with, His own creation.

Volcanic Steam Plume on May 19, AD1982 (Mount St. Helens re-eruption)


Mount St. Helens illustrates how quickly catastrophic geology can form sedimentary rock canyons, so it refutes the idea that sedimentary rock canyons must require millions of years to form. Yet there is more to the age debate!  If you really think it through, you’ll see that how old Earth is cannot be determined by looking at its present condition   — yet empirical scientists pop out opinions about Earth’s age like popcorn!

But the age of something, or of someone, cannot be known with certainty without a reliable eye-witness.   Here’s an example: How old are you, exactly? How do you know when you were born?  Obviously you were there, when you were born, but you were so young at the time, you don’t remember what day it was!  Because your birth is a unique event, and it is no longer observable, the uniformitarian assumption can’t be used to prove your birth-date.  However, a reliable eye-witness was there – your mother!   (Trust me, she was there  —  and she remembers the day you were born!) And your birth-date was promptly written down, by reliable record-keepers, before it could be forgotten.  Without a reliable eye-witness you can only guess when you were born.

Likewise, without the book of Genesis (which contains God’s eye-witness report of Earth’s creation, in error-free writing), we cannot know how old Earth is.  But if we close the Holy Bible, we only make wild guesses about how old Earth is (and how it got here).


Ecological recovery at Mount St. Helens   (U.S. Forest Service photo)


Evolutionists assumed that it would be generations before the volcanic ash-blanketed area around Mount St. Helens would “bounce back”, ecologically speaking. Yet within weeks, revitalization was evident:  avalanche lilies grew up through the deposited volcanic ash. During AD1992 our family vacationed near Mount St Helens, and we visited the area, noticing bright-covered flowers growing up through the devastated landscape.


Wildflowers (lupines, Indian paintbrush, &c) at Mount St. Helens   (Seattle Times photo)

Less than 20 years later bushes and deciduous trees were growing there, providing food and cover for insects, birds, and mammals.  Now an entire canopy of trees have restored much of the area to productivity, with a mix of plants and animals thriving at the very site of total devastation less than 40 years ago.

So Mount St. Helens illustrates ecological resilience, a trait that God intentionally designed into ecosystems around the world, because God values biodiversity that “fills” Earth’s various habitats.  No surprise on that, really, because it was God Himself Who originally commanded (and equipped) diverse life-forms to “fill the earth”.  (And this divine decree was renewed after the Flood  —  see Genesis chapter 9.)

In short, Earth’s ecology is  a lot more resilient than design-resistant evolutionists think it is – Mount St. Helens proves it!


Stauer Helenite necklace, earrings & ring   (made from Mount St. Helens ash)


Mount St. Helens can provide a witness for God, and a benefit for your marriage, if you and your spouse are witnessing Christians.  Part of our family’s vacation (in AD1992) included a visit there, and I still have some vessels filled with volcanic ash (including some that I obtained from friends or merchants who gathered ash during AD1980).

Better yet, some Mount St. Helens volcanic ash was used (somehow) to make brilliant green “Helenite” jewelry (some of which I bought for my wife).  Whenever someone comments on her Helenite necklace, she can tell them about the scientific importance of Mount St. Helens  —  and how it illustrates that a geologic catastrophe can quickly produce a miniature Grand Canyon, in just a few days, with no need for the gazillions of years that uniformitarian evolutionists assume is needed.

(Hey, there’s an idea for you ladies!   –  tell your husband to google “jewelry” and “Helenite”, because you want to wear some Helenite jewelry, to help you give a Biblical witness to those who ask for a reason for your faith!)




When the Genesis Flood’s Tsunamis Hit Norway and Svalbard, Terrestrial Dinosaurs were Power-Washed Out to Sea

When  the  Genesis  Flood’s  Tsunamis  Hit  Norway  and  Svalbard,   Terrestrial  Dinosaurs  were  Power-Washed  Out  to  Sea

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

They that go down to the sea [yâm] in ships, who do business in great waters [mayîm rabbîm]; these see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep [metsûlâh].   (Psalm 107:23-24)


Recently I wrote about some unusual dinosaur-related paleontology finds in 2 territories belonging to Norway, specifically Spitsbergen (the main island of the far-north Svalbard archipelago) and the sedimentary seabed of “Snorre Field” (in the Norwegian North Sea), a deepsea oil-drilling location more than 50 miles to the west of Norway’s western coastline — with mention of how the best explanation for those finds (i.e., the Genesis Flood) reminded me of the gigantic Whopper Sand in the Gulf of Mexico, where an enormous Flood-blasted sand formation now yields literally billions of barrels of deepsea petroleum.   [See “Doomsday at the Beach for Nordic Dinosaurs!“, posted at   —  with picture/image credits shown here, cited there.]

Dinosaur tracks were found on Svalbard’s sedimentary rock beaches, and some Plateosaurus dinosaur bone was found (inside an oil-drill core!) about a mile-and-a-half deep, more than 70 miles offshore of Norway!

Only the forceful mega-tsunamis of the Genesis Flood could cause those results, says geologist/paleontologist Dr. Tim Clarey (who formerly worked for Chevron):

Only a massive, high-energy flow of water and muddy sand could transport a dinosaur over 70 miles offshore. And only repeated high-energy flows could bury it about 1.5 miles deep.  We are talking unimaginable energy needed here, greater than any tsunami witnessed in historic (post-Flood) times.  And similarly, the Whopper Sand in the Gulf of Mexico needs massive, high-energy sheet-flow off the (North American) continent.  Something again, beyond anything happening today (geologically speaking).  These features, and the dinosaur footprints on Svalbard, are difficult to comprehend without recognizing a catastrophe as big as the great (global) Flood described in Genesis.  There is just no other conceivable explanation (that fits the observable facts).”

[Quoting Dr. Timothy Clarey, summary provided in writing AD2019-04-25.]

WOW! It was a terrible day at the beach when the Svalbard ornithopod dinosaurs were tsunami-blasted into the sea.  Likewise, the doomed Plateosaurus, buried (~1.5 miles deep!) in sea sediments, off the shore of western Norway (70+ miles away from his “home”) had no clue about  what had just hit him.


Today I wrote a limerick poem, as a post-script of that paleontology/geology study.


Dinos, who roamed Norway’s shores,

Got buried, in North Sea floors;

Power-washed, by the great Flood,

Buried deep, in sand and mud  —

Left behind, and drowned, dinosaurs.

Other than the God-selected dinosaur pairs who were safety aboard Noah’s Ark, it was a catastrophic watery death for Earth’s terrestrial dinosaurs, including those then living in the Nordic-polar lands that we today call Norway and Svalbard.  Thankfully, there will never be another global flood  —  and we are wise to recall how it illustrates God’s holy judgment (as Peter reminds us, in 2nd Peter chapter 3)  — it was a one-of-a-kind cataclysm that violently destroyed beach-going (and other terrestrial) dinosaurs, in the polar North and elsewhere, all over on planet Earth.



Not-so-irrelevant  trivia:   For 3 weeks  during the summer of AD2003,  Dr. James J. S. Johnson taught history and geography  on the high seas,  aboard the MARCO POLO  (a cruise ship  about the same size as Noah’s Ark).

Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (2nd Timothy 3:7)


“Cathedral mounds” built by Australian termites (Wikipedia photo)

The failure of many evolutionists, to see what they are looking at (i.e., to see what is “hidden in plain view”) is comparable to an error British Celts made when Julius Caesar attacked Britain’s shores, at Kent in 54 BC.

The native Celts reported Caesar’s beach landing as an attack by combined armies of Rome, Libya, and Syria.(1) Unlike Romans, British Celts never recruited multi-ethnic mercenaries, so the Britons misinterpreted the invaders as a horde of allied (but separate) armies.(1) Likewise, evolutionists now misunderstand many facts “in plain view”, due to erroneous assumptions.

The evolutionary ecology concept of “ecosystem engineering” was recently introduced in an earlier study(2) to show how some evolutionists are improving their understanding of how proactive animals are, in altering ecosystems—yet those same evolutionists continue to miss the best lessons that these animals can teach us.(2)

Two such misunderstandings are considered below.


When considering the “ecosystem engineering” concept’s utility, some ecologists try to limit the concept’s application to animal-produced habitat alterations that are impactfully “big”, as opposed to minimal. Thus, beaver dams and coral reefs are recognized as “big enough” to qualify as “ecosystem engineering” habitat modifications.(2)  But “little” habitat alterations, like bird-nests and prairie burrows, are often dismissed as de minimis—not worthy of comparable attention.(2)

However, when evaluating ecological activity, this is a “bigger-is-better” fallacy. Which is more “important”, ecologically speaking, a huge elephant—or a microscopic yet deadly virus?

Also, when evaluating whether animal activity is “big enough”, to be ecologically “important”, applying anthropocentric perspectives is unrealistic.

For example, consider how deadwood-eating termites aggressively modify their neighborhoods, using saliva-soil mud, building air-conditioned mud “chimneys” above interconnected subsurface tunnels.

Mounds built by Australia’s Amitermes merionalis termites can be taller than 12’ tall, 8’ wide, and 3’ deep underground.(3)

For adult humans, of heights 6’ tall (more or less), this is impressive, but perhaps not shockingly so.  However, to better appraise these physical construction feats, consider that Amitermes “worker” termites are about a third-of-an-inch long.  The termites-to-mound height ratio is 432:1 (12’-tall mound, compared to 1/3-of-an-inch-long termite), comparable to humans constructing spit-mud mounds 2592’ high—almost double the Empire State Building’s height!

So, to a “worker” termite, its mound “chimney” is an enormous skyscraper!


Cheetah atop Termit Mound in Namibia   (Seeding Labs photo)

Other examples could be given.

The world’s largest bay, the Chesapeake, is burdened with excess nitrogen and organic nutrients that people repeatedly release into its tributaries.

HookedMussels-on-Oysters.MdDeptNaturalResourcesOysters with Mussels   (Chesapeake Bay Program)

Oyster reefs, bolstered by attached mussels, filtering huge volumes of bay water, consume otherwise-unrestrained (nitrogen-compound-fueled) growth of picoplankton (comprising ~15% of bay phytoplankton biomass, during summer), preventing unchecked algal blooms that would block sunlight from submergent aquatic plants, leading to oxygen-depleted “dead zones”.(4)

Thankfully, the combined filtering of Eastern Oysters and Hooked Mussels provides estuarial water clean-up services, “hidden in plain sight”, ultimately benefiting dissolved oxygen needs of the interactive Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.(4)


Please, don’t praise bivalve brainpower, for figuring all of this out!—oysters and mussels are neither bioengineering-savvy ecosystem designers, nor conservation scientists.

Likewise, don’t fête the Australian Amitermes termites, as if they were brilliant architects, construction engineers, or HVAC experts!—they’re just bioengineered bugs.

Rather, give due glory to creation’s Architect and Bioengineer, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:7), for He has built and maintains all of these “small-yet-great” super-interactive ecosystems (Revelation 4:11).



(1)William R. Cooper, After the Flood (Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1995), 58-59, citing Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.  (Don’t expect to ever find a more insightful or godlier scholar of Anglo-Saxon history than Laird Bill Cooper!)

(2) “Ecosystem engineering” analysis improves upon earlier “keystone species” concepts, yet ultimately fails to identify the true cause and logic underlying animal successes in filling various habitats. James J. S. Johnson, “Ecosystem Engineering Explanations Miss the Mark”, Acts & Facts, 48(3):20-21 (March 2019), illustrating 2 Timothy 3:7.  Evolutionists’ failure to recognize God as the divine Architect-Bioengineer is illustrated by recent ecology literature on “ecosystem engineering”, e.g., Jones, C. G., J. H. Lawton, & M. Shachak, “Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers”, Oikos. 69:373-386 (1994); Wright, J. and C. G. Jones, “The Concept of Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers Ten Years On: Progress, Limitations, and Challenges”, BioScience. 56(3):203-209 (2006).  With all the Darwinist emphasis on antagonistic competition between species, the ecological realities of mutualistic neighborliness in biotic communities was downplayed and/or dismissed. See, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “Misreading Earth’s Groanings: Why Evolutionists and Intelligent Design Proponents Fail Ecology 101”, Acts & Facts. 39 (8):8-9 (August 2010); James J. S. Johnson, “Grand Canyon Neighbors: Pines, Truffles, and Squirrels”, Acts & Facts. 47(10):21 (October 2018); James J. S. Johnson, “Cactus, Bats, and Christmas Gift-Giving”, Acts & Facts. 46 (12):21 (December 2017).  See also, accord, Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Fast Adaptation Confirms Design-Based Model”, Acts & Facts. 47(9):18-20 (September 2018); Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Sensor Triggers Affirm Intelligently Designed Internalism”, Acts & Facts. 47(2):17-19 (February 2018).

(3) Gordon C. Grigg, “Some Consequences of the Shape and Orientation of ‘Magnetic’ Termite Mounds”, Australian Journal of Zoology, 21:231-237 (1973), noting how Amitermes meridionalis termite mounds sometimes 4 meters high.

(4) Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, “Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits”, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (2014). See also Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater Bivalves Flexing their Muscles as Water Filterers”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 28(7):1 (October 2018), cited in “Have You Thanked God for Mussels Lately?”, Bibleworld Adventures (Nov. 12, AD2019), posted at .  See also, for further discussion of estuariah ecosystem benefits contributed by oysters and mussels, Loren D. Coen, Robert D. Brumbaugh, David Bushek, Ray Grizzle, mark W. Luckenbach, Martin H. Posey, Sean P. Powers, & S. Gregory Tolley, “Ecosystem Services Related to Oyster Restoration”, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 341:303-307 (July 2007), saying: “Although further discussion and research leading to a more complete understanding is required, oysters and other molluscs (e.g., mussels) in estuarine ecosystems provide services far beyond the mere top-down control of phytoplankton blooms, such as (1) seston filtration, (2) benthic-pelagic coupling, (3) creation of refugia from predation, (4) creation of feeding habitat for juveniles and adults of mobile species, and for sessile stages of species that attach to molluscan shells, and (5) provision of nesting habitat.”  Obviously God is the ultimate multi-tasking Bioengineer!


HOT DESERTS: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.  (ISAIAH 35:1)


VINEGAROON WHIP-SCORPION (photo credit: Things Biological blog)

In deserts the temps climb quite high,

With scarce rain, those lands get quite dry;

Such climes can be torrid,

For some that is horrid —

Yet yuccas can cope when it’s dry.


Yes, deserts are truly alive;

Harsh heat some critters survive;

Like cactus blooms brilliant,

And lizards resilient —

There sagebrush and rattlesnakes thrive.

(The above limerick I have titled “Hot Deserts: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others”.)

COMMENTARY:  As Isaiah 35:1 indicates, the glory of the Lord is displayed even in desert places (including arid wildernesses that most of us would consider wastelands), where even cactus flowers blossom with bright colors and beauty, attracting pollinators, as their succulent tissues store water for desert birds such as Gila woodpeckers.  God’s glory is displayed in the magnificent variety of creatures (including the exotic Vinegaroon scorpion!) and habitats He has decorated the earth with.

It is the adventure and privilege of mankind, created in God’s own image – and redeemed by the blood of God incarnate  — to learn of these treasures in God’s creation, and to appreciate God for showcasing His power and wisdom in such humbles creatures as such desert denizens, who daily brave the hot and arid extremes, living and in desert places.


Striking Rattlesnake



James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, MSGeog, CNHG


Hooked Mussels attached to Oysters, Chesapeake Bay oyster-reef
(Chris Judy / Maryland Dep’t of Natural Resources photo)

And it shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall go, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall go there, for they shall be healed; and everything shall live where the river goes.   (Ezekiel 47:9)

Healthy rivers are a good thing. But sometimes a “hero” is needed, to clean up unhealthy rivers, or to “keep clean” rivers that will otherwise go bad.

Tough “clean-up” jobs, as well as “keep-it-clean” maintenance jobs, are often accomplished by unsung heroes. For example, the tough job of cleaning up water quality (and the job of maintaining water quality) in coastal wetlands requires some helpful muscles, such as those of the Chesapeake Bay’s mussels!  So, shouldn’t such helpful bivalves be given due credit, for what they do?

Mussels, once mostly ignored, are now being touted for their ability to clean streams much like oysters do for the Bay. Oysters are in many ways the restoration darlings of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. Touted for multiple benefits — as edible, water-filtering moneymakers — oysters attract both enthusiasm and funding to promote their recovery.

But the popularity of oysters often overshadows the water-cleansing role of other filter feeders such as mussels. A growing group of mussel advocates think it’s high time that the bivalves share the spotlight as clean-water workhorses that can carry the message farther upstream.

 Projects to propagate mussels and restore them to waterways where they once thrived are cropping up in parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania as researchers working on them in various states begin to join efforts. The goal is to return some of the diversity once found in these waterways — mussel by mussel — so they can filter, feed, clean and otherwise serve the local ecosystem.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1 (October 2018).]

So, what service do mussels provide, such as the mussels which dwell in Chesapeake Bay watershed streams and estuarial wetlands?

Research in Chesapeake Bay shows that the mussels that typically colonize a restored oyster reef can more than double the reef’s overall filtration capacity. Filtering plankton helps improve water quality because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels. …

Restoring oysters — and their ability to filter large volumes of water — is widely seen as a key way to improve the health of Chesapeake Bay. New research makes this calculus even more appealing, showing that the mussels that typically colonize the nooks and crannies of a restored oyster reef can more than double its overall filtration capacity.

The study — by researchers at the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science — appears as the cover story in the most recent issue of Restoration Ecology [i.e., Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

“Many efforts to restore coastal habitat focus on planting just one species, such as oysters, mangroves, or seagrass,” says [University of Maryland]’s Keryn Gedan, the study’s lead author. “However, our research shows that the positive effects of diverse ecosystems can be much greater. In the case of oyster reefs, commonly associated species such as mussels may multiply the water quality benefits of restoration by filtering more and different portions of the plankton.”

“Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by a restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects,” adds [Virginia Institute of Marine Science] scientist Lisa Kellogg. “By quantifying the significant role that mussels can play in filtration within an oyster-reef habitat, our work shows that the ‘return on investment’ for oyster-reef restoration is potentially much higher than commonly thought.”

Filtering plankton helps improve water quality [and thus functions as an “ecosystem engineer”  —  JJSJ comment] because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels.

“Filtering plankton from the water is the first step towards removing nutrients,” says Kellogg. “Although some will be returned to the water column, a significant portion will be removed from the system.” Removing plankton also has more direct benefits. Left unchecked, plankton can form dense blooms that shade other aquatic plants such as seagrass, and can lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” when they die, sink, and decay.

The research team, which also included SERC’s Denise Breitburg, based their findings on a combination of laboratory experiments and computer modeling. In the lab, they added phytoplankton of different size classes to tanks containing eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) or hooked mussels (Ischadium recurvum), then measured the animals’ filtration rates at different temperatures. They then incorporated these measured rates into a simple model and used that to simulate overall filtration for three different restoration scenarios in Harris Creek, Maryland, one of the East Coast’s largest oyster-reef restoration sites.

Kellogg’s main contribution to the paper was data on the relative abundance of oysters, mussels, and other organisms inhabiting restored oyster reefs collected during her time as a post-doctoral researcher at Maryland’s Horn Point Lab. These data, which showed that the biomass of mussels on a restored reef can equal or exceed that of the oysters, were used as baselines for the model projections.

The results of that modeling were clear. “On average,” says Gedan, “adding filtration by hooked mussels into our model increased the filtration capacity of the reef by more than two-fold.”

Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. Picoplankton are the smallest category of marine plankton, ranging from about 1.5 to 3 microns (a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across). Picoplankton are particularly abundant in Chesapeake Bay during summer, with an earlier study from the York River showing they can make up nearly 15% of phytoplankton “biomass” during the warmer months.

“Some have suggested that oyster reef restoration will be less effective than expected in controlling phytoplankton populations because of oysters’ inability to filter picoplankton,” says Kellogg. “Our discoveries with mussels lessen that concern.”

“The mussels’ ability to filter the picoplankton indicates that they fill a distinct ecological niche,” adds Gedan. “Accounting for both oyster and mussel filtration, large-scale restoration projects like those going on in Chesapeake Bay could significantly control phytoplankton, especially during the summer months, when animals filter the most.”

The bottom line, says Gedan, is that “estimates of the ecosystem services provided by just the oysters on an oyster reef may vastly underrepresent the reefs’ overall contribution. Because oyster reefs also contain many other filter-feeding species, they will likely benefit water quality much more than previous modeling efforts suggest.” Kellogg is now taking this line of research further, studying how another common oyster-reef inhabitant — an organism called a tunicate — might also contribute to gains in water quality. Tunicates, fleshy animals also known as sea squirts, filter plankton and other particles from the water similarly to oysters and mussels.

[Quoting Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Study Puts Some Mussels into Chesapeake Bay Restoration”, 9-8-AD2014, at posting .]

Summarized in technical ecology lingo, the researchers abstract their findings on mussel filter-cleaning as follows:

Many coastal habitat restoration projects are focused on restoring the population of a single foundation species to recover an entire ecological community. Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by the restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects. However, estimates of ecosystem services provided by a single species may vastly under‐represent true provisioning, as we demonstrate here with an example of oyster reefs, often restored to improve estuarine water quality.

In the brackish Chesapeake Bay, the hooked mussel Ischadium recurvum can have greater abundance and biomass than the focal restoration species, the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. We measured the temperature‐dependent phytoplankton clearance rates of both bivalves and their filtration efficiency on three size classes of phytoplankton to parameterize an annual model of oyster reef filtration, with and without hooked mussels, for monitored oyster reefs and restoration scenarios in the eastern Chesapeake Bay.

The inclusion of filtration by hooked mussels increased the filtration capacity of the habitat greater than 2fold. Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton (1.5–3 µm), indicating that they fill a distinct ecological niche by controlling phytoplankton in this size class, which makes up a significant proportion of the phytoplankton load in summer.

When mussel and oyster filtration are accounted for in this, albeit simplistic, model, restoration of oyster reefs in a tributary scale restoration is predicted to control 100% of phytoplankton during the summer months.

[Quoting Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

Wow! Good for the Eastern Oysters, for their work in filter-cleaning Chesapeake Bay estuarial picoplankton, yet compliments also to the Hooked Mussels for their respective contributions to the clean-up work!  (This illustrates good teamwork!)

But it’s not just the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay wetlands that host mussels. (Thus, there are other waters that benefit from mussel cleaning.)  In fact, mussels often thrive in riverine freshwater habitats other than those which limnologists would classify as “coastal wetlands”.


Texas Freshwater Mussel life cycle   (Texas Parks & Wildlife Dep’t image)

In Texas, for example, freshwater mussels are both plentiful and diverse, living in both lotic (running) and lentic (standing) bodies of water.

Freshwater mussels may inhabit a variety of water-body types including large and small rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, canals, and reservoirs. More stable habitats may have larger and more diverse populations than do smaller and less stable waters.  Some species tolerate a wide variety of conditions [e.g., various bottom types, currents, water depths, water pH and other chemistry factors, water clarity, amount of sunlight, turbidity, aquatic vegetation, percentage of dissolved oxygen saturation, water temperature, biotic community make-up, etc.], but others may be more specific.  Certain mussels may require moderate to swiftly flowing waters, and typically fail to survive in lakes or impoundments.

Headwater spring pools and streams in Texas Hill Country typically harbor few if any mussels largely because the cool, clear waters lack sufficient phytoplankton and other foods needed to support mussel populations. A few species like pondhorns (Uniomerus spp.) occur in temporary ponds and periodically-dry portions of intermittent streams by burrowing into the substrate during dewatering.

[Quoting Robert G. Howells, Raymond W. Neck, & Harold D. Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division, 1996), page 14.]

In Texas, for instance, freshwater mussels —  especially dozens of varieties of unionid mussels (freshwater-dwelling mollusk bivalves a/k/a “naiads”)  —  have flourished for centuries in the enormously biodiverse bayou-waters of Caddo Lake, Texas’ sole “natural lake” (which borders Louisiana).

However, freshwater mussels have also been studied in these major river systems of the Lone Star State:

Canadian River (only slim pickings in these Panhandle-traversing waters); Red River (serving as the Texas-Oklahoma border to Arkansas, swelling at the artificially expanded Lake Texoma, favoring mussel populations including unionids such as pondshell, pondhorn, and yellow sandshell, as well as some clams);

Sulphur River (a Red River tributary, once intensively fished for mussels);

Big Cypress Bayou (a tributary of Caddo Lake, once fished for mussel pearls);

Sabine River (flowing to Texas’ border with Louisiana, then into the Gulf of Mexico, once intensively fished for mussels);

Neches River, including its tributary Angelina River (flowing through Texas piney woodlands, with no recent major harvesting of mussels);

Trinity River, flowing into Trinity Bay (pollution has been a historic problem, killing off mussel populations, though some unionids are observed within Lake Lewisville, an artificially formed reservoir-tributary of the Trinity River drainage system);

San Jacinto River (flowing north of Houston, draining into Trinity Bay, hosting washboard and threeridge mussels – as evidence by mussels stranded in dewatered areas during droughts);

Brazos River (Texas’ longest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande, hosting unionids in its tributary Navasota River);

Colorado River (containing unionid mussels in several of its tributaries);

Lavaca River (no significant mussels observed);

Guadalupe River, with its primary tributary San Antonio River, plus other tributaries including Blanco River and San Marcos River (sporadically hosting washboards and other river mussels);

Nueces River (flowing into Nueces Bay, with muddier tributaries hosting some mussels); and the Rio Grande, including its tributary Pecos River (separating Texas from Mexico, and variously hosting some unionid mussels).

[For specific biogeography details, see Howells, Neck, & Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS, pages 29-32.]

The water-filtering benefits of wetland mussels are worthy of appreciation; however, not every impact of mussels is advantageous, as is illustrated by the invasive (and pervasive) nuisance known as the non-unionid Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).  The miniscule Zebra Mussel is not covered as a topic, here, except to notice that it has caused a lot of disturbing and non-miniscule impacts in many freshwater lakes of America and Europe, from one water-body to another, due to over-land transport as attachments to the hulls of recreational boats.  [Regarding Zebra Mussel nuisance impacts, see Winfried Lampert & Ulrich Sommer, LIMNOECOLOGY: THE ECOLOGY OF LAKES AND STREAMS, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2010), pages 123 & 224-225.]

Freshwater mussels come in all shapes and sizes, with nicknames that indicate their unique forms or textures, such as snuffbox, spectacle-case, pimple-back and pistol-grip. Most live in rivers or streams, some others in lakes and ponds, but all rely on a current of water to provide phytoplankton and bacteria that they filter-feed from the water. Some species can live to be more than 100 years old. They also have a complex life cycle that makes them difficult — but not impossible — to reproduce in hatcheries. Most need a fish to act as a host as they start their life: The larvae find shelter and grow in fish gills until they can navigate the waters on their own. Some mussels create lures to draw in their preferred host, and some clamp onto the fish with trap-like mouths. If the fish species preferred by a certain mussel disappears, the mussel does, too.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to analyze the benefits of coastal wetland mussels, such as those which are quietly filter-cleaning wetland waters within the Chesapeake Bay drainage watershed, someone needs to carefully study them.

But, since most of these mollusks are not commercially exploited, who will pay for the scientific research on these humble bivalves?

Other parts of the country, such as the Tennessee River system and Delaware Bay, have seen the fruit that comes from investing in mussel propagation and research. Meanwhile, mussels have often fallen below the radar of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. That may be because freshwater mussels, unlike oysters or some saltwater mussels, don’t end up on human plates.

Research and restoration funding is harder to come by, even though three-quarters of freshwater mussel species are considered to be at some level of impairment. The money often comes in an off-and-on fashion from mitigation payments for environmental disasters and permit renewals, and partners in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort community have not focused their resources on mussels. … Many of the mussel advocates who gathered along the James River in July first interacted with the mollusks outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed — in the Clinch River, which rises in the southwest corner of Virginia and flows into Tennessee. The Clinch River is home to most of Virginia’s 81 mussel species, more than a third of which are endangered. The diversity of mussels found there has made the river a hotspot for research nationally. …

The Harrison Lake facility [i.e., the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, located along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia – an activity of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior], built in the 1930s to support recreational fisheries, now has the capacity to grow tens of millions of mussels. Over the last decade, the facility transitioned from a focus on migratory fish species such as American shad to also growing tiny glochidia, the name for larval-stage mussels, into young mollusks.

When Dominion’s Bremo Power Station renewed its water discharge permit, the hatchery got more than a half-million dollars from the deal after a threatened mussel was found to be impacted by its discharge. When DuPont had to pay $42 million to settle a case over mercury contamination of the South River, the hatchery got $4 million. The coal ash spill in the Dan River in 2014 brought in additional funds to help replenish mussel species that might have been lost.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

HarrisonLake-hatchery-sign.USFWSThe Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery employs a staff of five – and their aquaculture efforts are producing results.

The hatchery team used to release tiny mussels into portions of the James watershed and hope for the best. Now, the staff has the technology to grow them “almost indefinitely” at the facility to a large enough size that they have much better survival rates in the wild. The center propagates the mussels by collecting female mussels that already have larvae in their gills, which the staff either extracts with a needle (to mimic a fish rubbing against it) or allows the mussel to release. Placed into tanks with their host fish, the larvae will attach to the fish before dropping off two to four weeks later to continue feeding and growing in a series of tanks. The lab is also working on in vitro fertilization for mussel species whose host fish is not known.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to track progress, regarding the future growth and activities of mussels released to “the wild”, the hatchery uses a monitoring system that is analogous to bird-banding  —  the hatchery laser-etches identifying code markings onto the shell of a mussel, before release.  Also, some rare mussels receive special tagging.

At the hatchery, in a squat building paid for by the Bremo mitigation funds, biological science technician Bryce Maynard demonstrated methods used to tag and track the progress of mussels grown here before being launched into wild waters. He flipped the switch on a laser engraver that can carve numbers into several rows of mussels at a time, leaving a burnt-hair smell in the air and marking thousands of mussels a day for future tracking. Among the hatchery mussels are rare species such as the James spinymussel, which was once abundant in the James River upstream of Richmond but disappeared from most of its range by the late 1980s. The hatchery-raised spinymussels are marked with tags sealed in place with dental cement. The tags can be located later with a beeping detector but are costlier than other tracking methods.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

So what is the main benefit expected from these costly investment? Besides overall enhancing of the coastal wetland ecosystems, water filtering is expected, since that is what mussels are famous for.

Every mussel that finds its way into the watershed and survives could help filter about 10 liters of water per day, said Danielle Kreeger, senior science director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, where she’s become an advocate for the potential of what she calls the #mightymussel.  “Pound for pound, freshwater mussels are not slouches,” she said  …  “To me, every mussel is precious, and we need to protect them.”  Kreeger, in the coming months, will be completing a review of studies on the ability of such bivalves to enhance water quality, which she hopes will shore up the amount of data available about mussels’ benefits.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

To be clear, the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery is not limited to hatching mussels for the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary waters.

In fact, the USF&W operation there is, as one would expect, focused largely on piscatorial aquaculture, i.e., hatching fish, especially American Shad, as well as some alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, and striped bass. [See “Harrison Lake national Fish Hatchery”, summary by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

But for now, the take-away lesson is an appreciation for mussels: they are a lot more important than most of us think they are.


Harrison Lake Nat’l Fish Hatchery: fish hosts carrying mussel larvae    (B. Davis / USF&WS photo)

But why are they, as Dr. Kreeger says, “precious”? Because God created them  —  it was God Who gave Chesapeake Bay mussels, as well as Texas riverine mussels, their intrinsic value.  As God’s creatures they display His workmanship – God’s creative bioengineering is exhibited (“plainly seen”) in all animals, including humble mussels.

Accordingly, as some of the many (albeit small and usually unseen) creatures whom God chose to create (and to “fill” diverse wetland habitats), mussels deserve due credit, for doing what God has programmed them to do, including filter-cleaning wetland waters.

So, good for the mussels, good for the water supply, and that’s all good for us —  and therefore we should give glory unto God, because God is due credit for making estuarial and river-dwelling mussels what they are.                               ><> JJSJ

Dr. James J. S. Johnson freely admits that his appreciation for mussels did not begin with learning about how they contribute to filter-cleaning estuarial waters, but rather from his eating lots of tasty blue mussels when visiting New England.

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

James J. S. Johnson

For the invisible things of Him [i.e., God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and deity, so that they are without excuse.   (Romans 1:20)


Dr. Konrad Gessner (also spelled “Conrad Gesner”), who lived from AD1516 to AD1565, was a true Reformation-grounded biologist and ecologist, as well as an accomplished intellectual in other fields. Gessner was born and originally educated in Zürich, Switzerland, the Protestant city pastored first by Ulrich Zwingli, then next by Heinrich Bullinger (a personal friend of Gessner). During AD1532-1536 he studied at various universities in Strasbourg, Bourges, and Basel.

In AD1537 he taught as professor of Greek in Lausanne, yet soon afterwards began science studies leading to a Medical Doctor’s degree in AD1541 (in Basel). Returning to Zürich, he taught science there for most of the rest of his life. Dr. Gessner authored scholarly works on various subjects, such as:

  • botanical studies (including subalpine flowers) in AD1541, with more in AD1542;
  • a bibliographic encyclopedia of world literature in AD1545, with supplements in AD1548-1549;
  • zoological studies (mammals, birds, fishes, etc.) in AD1551-1558;
  • comparative language studies (on 22 translations of The Lord’s Prayer) in AD1555;
  • doxological mountain hiking, mixed with montane ecology, in AD1555.

Dr. Gessner’s research on snakes and insects was published posthumously. In AD1541, Gessner resolved to climb at least one mountain each year, a habit he thereafter maintained.

Mountain-hiking to Dr. Gessner, as a true biblical creationist, was a joy and an opportunity to appreciate God’s creative glory in nature.

Of special importance to creation geologists, such as William Hoesch (who is quoted below), Dr. Gessner also wrote on fossils (see article quoted below), refusing to accept the faddish contra-biblical fossil theory of his generation:

The history of thinking about fossils is a study in worldviews. Conrad Gesner of Zurich (1516-1565) is considered by some the greatest naturalist of his century. His book, On Fossil Objects, in many ways reflects his Protestant upbringing. The fact that he lost his father in armed combat between Catholics and Protestants in 1531 reminds us that this was a time when it was costly to believe. Gesner’s close friend growing up was none other than Heinrich Bullinger, one of the most influential Christian figures of his century. Gesner’s interest in science led him to universities at a time when Renaissance humanism was the dominant worldview. In his work on fossils, his Protestant upbringing shines through in some interesting ways.

First, Gesner placed great emphasis on firsthand observation which can be seen in his detailed woodcut illustrations of fossils. In this, he broke with the Renaissance tradition of science, placing the opinions of the “Ancients” (Aristotle, etc.) above that of observation. Gesner reversed this. At the time, it was not at all obvious that marine-looking fossils found in stone far from the sea were the remains of once living organisms. Neoplatonism held that the funny fossil shapes were controlled by mysterious astral influences, and Aristotelianism attributed marine-looking fossils to the transport of “seeds” of ocean-dwelling organisms that got carried inland and grew in place after lodging in the cracks. Gesner made no effort to challenge these teachings, but in comparing side-by-side quality woodcut illustrations of living marine organisms with marine-looking fossils, he helped to move thinking toward an organic interpretation of fossils. Firsthand observation is an essential step in “taking dominion over nature” that is mandated in Scripture, and Gesner seemed to manifest this.

Second, Gesner took a peculiar delight in the study of nature. When he considered the minerals and gems which were at that time considered in the category of “fossils,” he was transfixed by the thought that these were earthly reminders of the jeweled City of Jerusalem. An accomplished physician, he delighted in hiking the Swiss Alps where he sought to catalog botanicals for their potential medicinal use. It was considered odd at this time to “enjoy” nature, but Gesner is hailed by some today as the father of recreational hiking! Despite nature’s fallen condition, he was able to “see” the invisible things of God and His attributes (Romans 1:20). The level of delight Gesner took in nature cannot be credited to his Neoplatonic or Aristotelian training. It is as if he saw all of nature as a divine revelation.

The considered wisdom of “the Ancients,” that fossils grew in place, was ultimately an article of pagan philosophy. Gesner, and others who followed, helped to change the thinking process. Early church fathers like Tertullian actually had it right; they understood an organic origin for fossils. For them, to get the remains of marine creatures high on the hills required an unusual agency—it obviously took a global Flood! Although long forgotten, and requiring thinking big about earth history, this teaching of a global Flood would return in the seventeenth century and play a key role in returning science to a solid foundation. 

[Quoting William Hoesch, “Fossil Political Correctness in the Sixteenth Century,” Acts & Facts / Back to Genesis (January 2007).]


Don’t expect a lot of pop-culture applause for Dr. Gessner, though —  because he glorified God in his Protestant Reformation-informed scholarship.  Thus, unlike many secular scientists who accomplished much less, Gessner’s work is mostly ignored.  However, God has not ignored Dr. Gessner’s reverent and careful creation research and scholarship  —  because God gives credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7), regardless of whether the truth is popular!  Meanwhile, God’s glory as the Creator is “clearly seen” everywhere.



Seafood Apologetics: Mussels, Shrimp, and Malt Vinegar

Seafood Apologetics: Mussels, Shrimp, and Malt Vinegar

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.’   (Genesis 9:1-4)

God’s bioengineering genius is “clearly seen” in the everyday details of all of His diverse creatures, including the diverse (and sometimes bizarre) variety of creatures He has put into and on the tidewater edges of Earth’s oceans and seas.(1)

Eating seafood reminded me of this, recently—mussels, shrimp, and a little malt vinegar—three edible witnesses against evolution.  In other words, eating seafood can remind us of creation apologetics evidences.

Mussels provide fossilized evidence of the cataclysmic Genesis Flood, as noted below. Vinegar is good when used carefully, but the idea of vinaigrette soup (or any other kind of soup), accidently morphing into whip-scorpions, only occurs in evolutionist fantasies. Also, shrimp populations, like Carbon-14 inside dinosaur bones, are often found in places where they weren’t expected.  Details follow.


Don’t eat mussels if their shells are closed.

Picture a plate of seafood pasta, ringed with boiled mussels, posited like numbers on a clock-face. Which mussels should you eat? Only eat those with open shells; they were fresh-caught and thoroughly boiled—now safe to eat.

But what about mussels (and other bivalves) buried in the Genesis Flood? Here is a salient insight from Dr. David Rosevear:

On the beach one can see lots of bivalve shells, open like a butterfly’s extended wings. At death, the muscle holding the shells closed relaxes, and the two halves spread apart. Fossil bivalves are different. Their shells are tightly shut. They were buried alive. That process was instantaneous.(2)

Don’t eat closed-shell mussels!  Either they weren’t cooked right, or they were catastrophically quick-buried and fossilized!


Careless use of vinegar is not helpful.

Some folks like to squirt vinegar onto their finfish, shellfish, “chips”, and/or other food; others prefer squeezing lemon juice.(3)

Either way, be careful!   —   misdirected squirts of vinegar (or lemon juice) can hit clothing, skin, or eyes. Vinegar on the fingers can cause trouble, too, especially if wet fingers are carelessly used to wipe eyes. But, used carefully, vinegar is good, as when an ingredient in hot-and-sour soup.(4) But not all “soups” are real.

Evolutionists expect us to believe that all life on Earth accidently assembled itself, like magic, inside a “warm little pond”, a “primordial soup” with all the needed biochemical ingredients.(5)

After innumerable entropy-defying biochemical “lucky accidents”,(5) they say, the “soup” ingredients magically morphed into self-replicating cells, and later into frogs, princes, and every other creature—including whip-scorpion vinegaroons that squirt out super-vinegar!(6)  [This “genes-in-magic” is attributed to a mystical spirit-like force called “natural selection” — yet unthinking atoms cannot “select” anything, ever!]


If you don’t expect to find shrimp, you probably won’t look for them.

Dr. Johan Hjort was a trail-blazing ecologist who researched cold-water fishery populations (cod, herring, shrimp). In 1898, after modifying a deep-sea fishing trawl, Hjort found large populations of Great Northern Prawn (Pandalus borealis) in muddy sediments below Norwegian fjords. Because those shrimp were deemed “rare” and commercially irrelevant, Hjort’s reports were ignored. To refute his naysayers, Hjort chose actions over words: “[Hjort] went prawn fishing, returned to harbor with a spectacular catch and dumped it on the quay.”(7)

Finding huge populations of Pandalus borealis, then, is like finding Carbon-14 residues in dinosaur bones, today. There it is, waiting to be noticed!—“young” radiocarbon inside “ancient” dinosaur bones, an evolutionist’s nightmare!(8)

So even seafood can prompt us to think about creation apologetics evidences:

(a) mussels (or clams) remind us that the Flood was cataclysmic, not tranquil;

(b) vinegar reminds us that vinegaroons (and all other life-forms) were carefully created by God, not magical offspring of a “primordial soup”; and

(c) cold-water shrimp remind us that reality doesn’t disappear just because we aren’t looking at it—the real truth about God’s creation is “clearly seen”!(1) — but we must examine the evidence, whether it’s shrimp or C-14 in Triceratops bones.

Bon appétit!


VINEGAROON WHIP-SCORPION (photo credit: Things Biological blog)


(1) Romans 1:20.

(2) David Rosevear, “Deep Time”, Creation Science Movement Pamphlet # 411 (August 2018), pages 2-3.

(3) Ruth 2:14.

(4) Susanna Foo, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), pages 82-83.

(5) James J. S. Johnson, “Infinite Time Won’t Save Evolution”, Acts & Facts, 47(6):21 (June 2018), at .

(6) Vinegaroon whip-scorpions (Mastigoproctus giganteus) expel 85% acetic acid spray, much stronger than ordinary vinegar, which is only about 5%-to-8% acetic acid in water. In America’s Southwest, vinegaroons have been treated with due respect for generations, by young and old alike.  Alma Abernathy, Bud and Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys (Dove Creek Press, 1998), pages 25 & 31.

(7) A. C. Hardy. 1950. “Johan Hjort: 1869-1948”, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 7(19):167-181.  See also, Vera Schwach, “A Sea Change:  Johan Hjort and the Natural Fluctuations in the Fish Stocks”, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71(8):1993-1999 (October 2014), published by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

(8) See Brian Thomas, “Carbon-14 Found in Dinosaur Fossils, ICR Creation Science Update (7-6-2015), citing Brian Thomas & Vance Nelson, “Radiocarbon in Dinosaur and Other Fossils”, Creation Research Society Quarterly, 51(4): 299-311 (spring 2015). Evolutionists, for generations, assumed that dinosaur bones are too old to have any measurable Carbon-14, so they don’t look at how much has always been there, exhibiting that dinosaurs died rather recently, not millions of years ago.  In fact, using conventional Carbon-14 radiometric dating analysis,  radiocarbon chemists have been famously wrong at dating skeletal bones of Vikings who died as recently as the late 800s A.D.!  See James J. S. Johnson, “Viking Bones Contradict Carbon-14 Assumptions”,  Acts & Facts, 47(5):21 (May 2018), posted at .