St. Mary’s Oyster Reef Restoration Project
Oyster reefs have disappeared in the Chesapeake Bay because of overharvesting, introduced diseases, and poor water quality. Historically, reefs were huge piles of living shell near the water’s surface with non-living shell underneath. Because oyster shell is now in short supply, we are experimenting with other materials to determine if reef structure can be reestablished. We are working with the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association (SMRWA- www.smrwa.org) and Rotary International to establish an experimental reef in shallow water along St. Mary’s College’s waterfront.
- Construct artificial oyster reefs in the St. Mary’s River Oyster Sanctuary that sustainably restore native oyster habitat and ecosystem services
- Conduct monitoring and scientific research to demonstrate the benefits and sustainability of 3-dimensional reefs as a restoration technique that can be potentially replicated elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay and the world
- Provide educational outreach opportunities by involving students, Rotarians and members of the local community in the construction and monitoring of the reefs
Some biology student projects:
Hannah Coe (SMCM 2013) examined the faunal colonization of reef materials for her SMP- St. Mary’s Project).
Hannah found a greater faunal abundance in oyster shell, but no difference in faunal diversity among reef material types.
Elizabeth Lee (2013 SMP- St. Mary’s Project) studied oyster spat survivorship and growth on different substrates fall-spring.
Liz found high winter mortality on all substrates, but oyster spat survivorship on oyster shell and concrete were roughly equivalent.