State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2009DE167B
Title: Microbiome of the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: At-Large
Focus Categories: Ecology, Non Point Pollution, Water Quality
Keywords: oysters, ecosystem health, food safety, water purification
Principal Investigators: Wommack, Eric; Furman, Megan (University of DE)
Federal Funds: $ 1,750
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 3,500
Abstract: The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, represents an important shellfishery along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Once abundant standing stocks existed along the entire range, from the Canadian Maritimes to the West Indies, but over-harvesting, habitat destruction, and disease have greatly reduced their prevalence. Many oyster fisheries must now be supported by direct mariculture and/or seeding with aquacultured oyster spat These measures have ensured sustainable fisheries, but problems with disease and encroachment of human pathogens persist In addition to their value as a fishery, oysters also play several ecologically important roles: creating habitat for other species, acting as erosional breaks within estuaries, and very importantly as filter-feeders capable of removing contaminants and sedimentation from the water column. Prior to the beginning of the oyster industry in the early 19th century, Chesapeake Bay oyster populations could effectively filter the entire volume of the bay (68 trillion liters) in a few days. For today's population this process takes over a year. A complex microbial community can be found within an oyster and their immediate environment The role that these microbes may play in oyster health and suitability for human consumption are not well understood.

This project will lay the groundwork for future metagenomic studies to assess the microbiota of oysters on regional and temporal scales.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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