HarborLAB’s Oyster Restoration Station



HarborLAB participates in the Billion Oyster Project (BOP), which seeks to restore this mollusk to our local waterways as an ecological and cultural heritage. Our oyster team led by Dane Bell, William Bezouska, Tito Alvarado and Dee Dee Maucher is part of HarborLAB’s  Environmental Monitoring Crew, managed by Josue Silvestre, EIT.  The four were trained and equipped by BOP at New York Harbor School on Governors Island.

Our team installed an oyster cage in November at HarborLAB’s GreenLaunch dock. This past weekend the team checked in on them. Dane reports:

Bill and I conducted this initial pull-up of the oyster cage. Supplies were organized, and protocol was reviewed. First site conditions, and then water sampling were conducted.  Then we pulled up the cage, which fortunately seemed to not have been disturbed since its placement.

On first impression  we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of algal growth on the ropes and cage itself, and took that as a good sign of creek health. We had some errors with the sizes of our collection bins being just an inch or two small to fit the cage, which hampered proper protocol. In the mobile trap, nothing crazy, though we did find a decent-sized shrimp (image attached) and various small arthropods. There was not very diverse growth in the sessile section on the ceramic tiles, which seemed to be uniformly covered in green algae. It will be interesting to see if sessile biotic diversity increases with time.  We still do not have a species identification guide on site, so took pictures for later, at-home identification. We should see if BOP has a bound one they can give us or if we can at least print one from their site to bring.

We recounted and weighed (for the first time) each of the ten tagged oyster clusters in the oyster section of the Oyster Restoration Station. There were some discrepancies with the original count on the tags, which could be due to either miscounting or oysters breaking off with cage shuffling (we found several live oysters unattached to any larger substrate).  Because of the cold and wind exposure and setting sun, two people was not enough to measure each other to dozens of live oysters in the cage, but it was good that we got weights and counts as comparative baseline for our pull-ups in the spring.  I think a group of 4-6 would be ideal for subsequent expeditions. It is also interesting to note that the mussels found on our site-scouting expedition along the creek, which Bill placed into the cage, have attached to some of the substrate and seem to be thriving. It would be advisable to ask a representative from BOP with this would be disruptive of the controlled cage environment, and therefore hamper proper scientific experimentation (e.g. as competing filter-feeders which are already thriving in the creek environment, mussels may negatively impact oyster growth).

I will try and go through the photos and identify the species this week, and then collate the data. (Editor’s note: We’ll update this post with that data and more images integrated.)

All in all, I’d say it was a success and we learned a lot.  It would be extra-nice if we were able to find a place in the area with less exposure (to the wind and cold in the colder months, and blazing sun in hotter). This is also important for making sure our organisms don’t quickly desiccate while we have them on land.

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