State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2010DE171B
Title: Microbiome of the Eastern Oyster, Crassastrea virginica
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: At large
Focus Categories: Ecology, Non Point Pollution, Conservation
Keywords: oyster, microbial communities, taxonomy, restoration
Principal Investigator: Wommack, Eric
Federal Funds: $ 25,912
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 47,045
Abstract: Oysters represent an important fishery in the United States valued at over $100M annually (NOAA NMFS, 2004). 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. The Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is the only oyster species natively found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Areas of C. virginica's range, the Chesapeake Bay in particular, have experienced drastic reductions in standing stocks widely attributed to disease, over-harvesting, and habitat degradation due to anthropogenic pressures (Lafferty et al., 2004). 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 and the impact this loss of a keystone filter feeder has had on the overall water quality in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays has been dramatic. The proposed research aims to utilize new high-throughput DNA sequencing technology for preliminary characterization of the taxonomic and functional composition of prokaryotic, viral, and microeukaryotic organisms which co-habitate within the mantle fluid of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. This research will be the first to use cutting-edge metagenomic tools for high-resolution analysis of oyster-associated microorganisms at both the taxonomic and functional level. Additional metagenomic analyses of autochthonous microbial communities within the oyster's environment, will provide clues as to potential reservoirs of harmful microorganisms. The proposed deep sequencing of viral assemblages will also allow for the application and development of novel bioinformatic tools. The longer term goal of this initial project is to provide the oyster industry with fundamental information that will be useful in efforts to improve disease-prevention and food safety; as well as restore oyster populations and the critical ecosystems services they provide.

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