Clam Counter

A new way to learn about Ontario’s freshwater mussels

Report sightings on the freshwater mussels you see

Clam Counter is A joint project between Toronto Zoo and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada   (DFO). The goal was to create an Android and iOS application that brings awareness of freshwater mussel species conservation to the general public.

Available in both English and French, Clam Counter allows users to report their mussel sightings to the Zoo and DFO. It can also be used offline as a convenient reference library of all freshwater mussel species in Canada.


download on the app store

download on google play store

The design process


Revamp the current freshwater mussel sighting report submission process, while also providing an education platform for both children and biologists.


A streamlined submission process available both online and offline, while also serving as an adaptable digital pocket field guide for freshwater mussel identification in the wild.

Clam Counter was featured in Metro News on April 2017. 


The Toronto Zoo approached us with a unique problem. To develop an application where people could report their sightings of wild freshwater mussels directly to the Zoo. The goal was to help monitor freshwater mussel activities in Canada to better aid their conservation efforts. Their existing process, during the time when they have brought us the problem, involves the user to identify the species they have at hand, and then filling out a form about their sighting information. That process relied on the user to have access to internet connection, opening up a web-page, and filling out the sighting information such as species, family, location and pictures.

The Zoo was looking for a more convenient, portable way for people to submit their sightings. Something that was accessible to people when they were out and about in the wild, where there were no internet connections. Hence the idea of making a mobile application where the user could take the reporting process with them to the field, store it in their phone, and upload it to the Zoo once they get back to a place with internet connection.

In this particular case, the solution was already there. We made a prototype of a similar application during the Fish Hackathon 2015 that streamlined NOAA’s current MMAP Mortality/Injury Reporting Process. (

The challenge was to adapt that prototype to the parameters of the current project, to discover new ways where we can tweak an existing solution for a different audience. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) became involved later in the project. This shifted our target audience into two groups that sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.


On one end, we had Zoo’s users, children, students, young adults and hobbyist who were interested in freshwater mussels, on the other end, we had biologists and researchers who were looking to use the app as a field guide. To make sure the app makes sense for each group of users. We developed a “beginner” mode and an “expert” mode where the users can switch between.


For “beginner” mode, the goal was to slowly introduce essential mussel anatomy to the audience, without overwhelming them with all the technical detail. Mussel anatomy guides were accessible from the main menu as well as during the mussel identification process as a “I’m not sure” button. This way the user could get help without reverting back to the front page.


For the “expert” mode, the goal was to quickly access an organized list of mussel species, find the particular species and submit the report. Therefore, the emphasis was placed on organization and efficiency. A filter page (called “Key” in this case) was installed in the species list section to quickly pick out a particular species based on its anatomical features. Once the species was identified, the user were taken to a “quick report” section where they fill out additional details about the mussel.

We started with an initial prototype with very basic function. just the questions and a list of 6 species. The point was to see if both user groups can go through the reporting process and note down any problem areas they had. Over the past two years, from 2016 to 2018. The app has gone under several adjustments. It now contains an expanded species list of 54 species, with working reporting functions for both modes and a filter system to quickly access particular species.