Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interesting Update On New York's Oyster Restoration Activity

We found this article interesting as it highlights some of the challenges of oyster restoration. Like our contemporaries in New York, we have faced challenges from silt and worries of poaching (although we saw no evidence of this in our work thus far.)   The original article appears in The Guardian. 

Conservation project hopes to bring back New York's oysters

Bronx River oyster restoration project aims to reintroduce the molluscs that purify waters and help provide storm defenses - but pollution levels will still make them hazardous to eat
Ray Grizzle holds an oyster grown at Soundview Park in the Bronx borough of New York, August 22, 2012. Marine scientists, planners and government officials say millions of mollusks living in waters off New York and other cities could go a long way toward cleaning up America s polluted urban environment.
 Ray Grizzle holds an oyster grown at Soundview Park in the Bronx borough of New York. Marine scientists, planners and government officials say millions of molluscs living in waters off New York and other cities could go a long way toward cleaning up America’s polluted urban environment. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP
The woman sat in the muck beside the Bronx River in the northern part of New York City, measured the oyster between a pair of calipers, and called out to her partner. “31 ... no, 32 millimeters. Um, dead. No, alive! Wait.” She paused, noticing the two halves of the oyster shell had separated and filled with mud. “Dead,” she said sadly.
Live oysters were what this small group of volunteers, scientists and activists fervently hoped to find in this distant corner of New York City, called Soundview, on that crystal clear morning in May.
The volunteers wore borrowed waders over old sneakers. They ventured out into the dark water, using walking sticks to avoid stumbling in the deep mud that coated the bottom of the river. Reaching down into water, about 20 yards offshore, they pulled out baskets of oysters and carried them carefully back to the riverbank to check for winter survivors.
This was phase two of something known as the Oyster Restoration Research Project, run by the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper program, the Hudson River Foundation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other partners, to restore oysters to an ecosystem they once dominated.
In the first phase, the other test restoration locations – off Governors Island, in the Bay Ridge flats, Jamaica Bay – all failed, the oysters washed away by rough waves or smothered to death in mud. The reefs at Soundview are now the only active oyster restoration effort in New York City waters.
“Soundview was the only one that didn’t blow away and where we saw at least a little bit of growth on the oysters,” said Dr Allison Fitzgerald of NY/NJ Baykeeper. “They can survive. The question is how long they are surviving. There’s a big difference between surviving and thriving.”
Attempting to restore oysters to New York City’s harbor and rivers and inlets has almost no downsides. They are natural and efficient water purifiers – studies have shown each one can filter 50 gallons of water each day. “They actually pull the sediment and particles out of the water and deposit them on the ground,” Fitzgerald said. “They clean the water column as they’re eating.”
Allison Fitzgerald measures an oyster from a bed at Soundview Park in the Bronx, New York
Allison Fitzgerald measures an oyster from a bed at Soundview Park in the Bronx borough of New York.Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP
By building reefs, oysters also make it easier for other organisms such as fish, shellfish, crabs, grasses, and birds, eventually to make a comeback in areas where human development has destroyed their habitat. And oyster reefs, like salt marshes – both of which New York City used to have in abundance – provide a barrier to storm surges, like the one that devastated downtown Manhattan and parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy.
“The idea isn’t to get an oyster industry going,” Dr Fitzgerald said. (For that, see the Chesapeake Bay restoration programme) “You want to create oysters for people to eat, you can do that in a hatchery.” This program has led to a diverse group of volunteers out and into the water, she says, and connecting New Yorkers to their natural environment is important.But don’t eat them. Not yet, at least. They might contain the types of chemicals and pathogens sometimes found in New York’s infamously polluted waterways. In the past, contaminated oysters harvested illegally have killed and blinded people.
There are still problems with poachers who disregard the danger. “I find people fishing and crabbing at some of our sites all the time,” said Dr Fitzgerald. “They would say, ‘Oh that’s dinner.’ They would not look twice at it.”
She added: “We also have people who are like, ‘I’ve been living in Jamaica Bay for my whole life, and my daddy before me and his daddy before him! And I eat oysters every day no problem!’ And yeah you probably glow in the dark also.”
Going forward, poachers are one of a handful of problems facing the restoration effort. There are predators – oyster drills, oyster toadfish, crabs.
The biggest obstacle is a confusing and inefficient array of bureaucracies that stand in the way of oyster reefing. Baykeeper had a proposal to bring oysters back to Freshkills Park, a 2,200-acre reserve on Staten Island that will be two-and-a-half times as large as Central Park, recently turned down by the city.
The slight still smarts. “There are a lot of benefits to having an oyster reef that far outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Fitzgerald, “but the risks to human health are hard for the regulators to get around.”
At Soundview back in May, the first field date for the oyster restoration project after the winter snows had melted, the volunteers and scientists found that the oysters’ survival rate was about average. It was a good sign.
Just across the river was the new Fulton Fish Market, the second largest in the world, where thousands of pounds of prime oysters are bought every day. New York City oysters haven’t been welcome there in decades.
The riverbed itself was mud – no grass, no marsh, very little wildlife. During intense storms, sewage treatment facilities are frequently overwhelmed and the overflow is dumped directly in rivers like the Bronx. The oysters, of course, slurp it all in

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giant Clams are Masters of Light

This is reprinted from New Scientist

Clever clams and algae show how best to harvest light

Little and large they may be. But giant clams have evolved a unique trick for redirecting sunlight to their microscopic algal tenants.
In many species of giant clam, photosynthetic algae live in the clam's fleshy mantle, which is exposed to the sea and sunlight through the flaps of its shell (pictured). In exchange for their home, the algae secrete glycerol, which feeds the clam.
The association is one of many in which animals work symbiotically with plants and algae to harvest the power of the sun.
But giant clams have specialised cells called iridocytes that allow algae to grow in microscopic pillars, which go about 2 millimetres deep into the clam mantle.Alison Sweeney of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and her team have demonstrated that the iridocytes ensure that every last algal cell in the micro-pillar still gets its fill of sunlight, even though most of the 300 or so cells in each column have no direct access to the light.
"What makes this system in the clam special is that the design can extract every last photon from sunlight," says Sweeney.
By shining halogen lamps on clams, Sweeney found that iridocytes redirect the path of sunlight so that it fans out into a cone about 15 degrees wide, bathing entire pillars of algae in mild, but optimal, intensities of light. Moreover, they transmit mainly red and blue light, the wavelengths that the algae photosynthesise most efficiently, and deflect much of the green and yellow wavelengths.
"The amount and mix of light that gets through is just right for the algae," says Sweeney. "And it fans out just enough to reach all the cells in the column."
Typically, clams that live in shallow coral reefs are exposed to levels of sunlight that are enough to kill the algae.

Mimicking nature

"While earlier work speculated on the role of these iridescent cells, this paper clearly shows how clams use iridocytes to control and redistribute the light that reaches their algal symbionts," says Ryan Kerney of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Kerney says that the research also solves the puzzle of why many clams are iridescent – it's down to the green or yellow light that is reflected because it's of no use to the algae. "Animals such as starlings or butterflies generally use iridescence for display or camouflage, but giant clams do neither, instead optimising the absorption of light to suit tiny stacks of algal cells."
Sweeney and her colleague, Shu Yang, have now begun a project to try to artificially mimic the function of the iridocytes, and to test ways of growing pillars of algae.
It could drastically improve the efficiency with which algae can be farmed to produce biofuels , because it would allow the algae to be grown in layers hundreds of cells thick instead of as a single layer, or being constantly stirred to expose all cells to sunlight.
"The clams have shown us how to grow algae very densely, without having to stir them, which wastes energy," says Sweeney.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mattapoisett Growing Oysters

We noticed this encouraging news on It is good seeing more towns moving in this direction.  

Mattapoisett oysters population on the rise, thanks to town experiment

By Georgia Sparling | Oct 14, 2014
MATTAPOISETT — Thousands of oysters grown from seed in Mattapoisett have been released into Pine Island Pond, and if all goes well, they will spawn thousands more.

Assistant Natural Resources Officer Kevin Magowan headed up the town’s first oyster farm. Beginning in June 2013, the town began growing 100,000 oyster seed in an upweller. The oysters were transferred to mesh grow-out bags and put in Pine Island Pond for the winter.
After the winter, Magowan said there were around 50,000 oysters still alive. They were then floated in bags during the summer and had grown to an average of 1.8 inches by June. By the end of September, they averaged 2.8 inches. The legal size is 3 inches.
For three Saturdays, volunteers have released around 12,400 legal sized oysters and 6,400 “sublegal” oysters that are near legal size. There are still more to broadcast, said Magowan.
Pine Island Pond was already a natural habitat for oysters, so the location is optimal for them to grow, he said.
Each female oyster can also spawn 10 to 30 million eggs in one summer, according to Magowan. Those oyster seed, in addition to more fostered seed fostered by the town would make a definite impact.
As to whether or not the oyster experiment was a success, Magowan said commercially-raised oysters sell for about $.55 each.
“I think we can beat that, and if we can’t, we definitely can next year. It’s a relatively cheap project, and I think we could see a pretty good increase in oysters,” he said.
Since the town has already invested in the upweller, it would cost a little more than $2,000 to cultivate another round of oyster seed.
“I like this method a lot better. It’s a sustainable fishery in that area,” Selectman Jordan Collyer said. “I wouldn’t hesitate to commit one more year or two more years.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Massachusetts Oyster Restoration Coastal Ecologist Job Opportunity

Coastal Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy (MA)

The Coastal Restoration Ecologist, an important team member at the Massachusetts Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, works under the direction of the Coastal Director and with Conservancy colleagues to implement multiple shellfish (oyster and bay scallop) restoration projects in Buzzards Bay and other state coastal waters, thus advancing the Conservancy’s coastal conservation mission. S/He provides technical/scientific expertise, in-the-water fieldwork, and project management for nearshore shellfish restoration work and facilitates measures of project success. S/He represents the Conservancy on a multi-disciplinary/multi-partner project team and collaborates with a variety of public and private individuals, agencies, organizations and communities to implement strategies. Additionally, s/he supports related research and monitoring work and helps to implement other coastal restoration strategies. The Coastal Restoration Ecologist communicates and shares information effectively to a variety of different audiences and works with Conservancy staff in Massachusetts and the New England region on similar nearshore restoration efforts.

For more information: (Job #42536).