Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2010DE171B

Microbiome of the Eastern Oyster, Crassastrea virginica

Institute: Delaware
Year Established: 2010 Start Date: 2010-09-01 End Date: 2013-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $68,809 Total Non-Federal Funds: $137,618

Principal Investigators: Eric Wommack

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. virginicas 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 todays 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 oysters 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.