National Science Foundation grant expands UMCES oyster research

October 02, 2008

Cambridge, Md. (October 2, 2008) - To help improve the success of oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researcher Dr. Elizabeth North is leading a team of scientists in a new in-depth study to determine when oysters spawn and where their larvae go in the Choptank River. Her team's research is supported by a $750,000 competitive grant from the National Science Foundation.

Working with fellow UMCES Horn Point Laboratory scientist Dr. Vic Kennedy and Dr. Scott Gallager from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, North's research will use new techniques involving in-water sampling and computer modeling to identify factors that influence where oyster larvae are transported in the river. It will also determine which reefs offer the best opportunity for breeding oysters to produce surviving larvae and how changes in their environment can influence the number of oysters in the river.

In the field, Dr. North's team will collect water samples from the Choptank River and use polarized light to identify oyster larvae in the samples. Back in the lab, they will map the distribution of the larvae in the river and track patches of them as they are transported by the currents before they settle onto oyster bars.

"By better understanding how the physical conditions of the water interact with the biological characteristics of the oyster, we hope to provide information that will enhance oyster restoration efforts," said Dr. North. "While this research focuses on the Choptank River, it has the potential to improve the way we conduct oyster restoration throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay."
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University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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