Year Established: 2010 Start Date: 2010-06-01 End Date: 2011-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $3,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $7,000
Principal Investigators: Gulnihal Ozbay, Jasmine Porter
Abstract: The Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is a species of utmost importance to the local aquatic environment due to their water filtering abilities. Historically, oysters dominated the benthic environment forming oyster reefs in many of the estuarine waterways in Delaware. These reefs provide critical habitat to a variety of species, yet abundances have recently plummeted. Diminishing oyster reefs have reduced the amount of possible habitat for oyster larvae to attach, as soft sediments are not conducive to their survival, and thus Delawares Oyster Gardening Program began The gardening program aspires to enhance the wild population of oysters by growing spat, premature oysters, into adult oysters in floating cages. Once the oysters grow to a sufficient size, they will be strategically placed in RIP-RAP around Delaware's coastal lagoons known locally as the Inland Bays, in anticipation that they will continue to survive, grow, enhance the water quality and propagate a new generation of wild oysters. The major objectives of the proposed research are to investigate oyster bioactivity on water quality and epifauna species diversity and abundance and the habitat value of RIP-RAP for oyster culture and oyster recruitment. Additional objectives include comparing water quality and epifauna diversity and abundance with and without oysters and with and without RIP-RAPS and comparing habitat value of two aquaculture/oyster restoration practices by monitoring species in and around the Taylor floats and RIP-RAP settlements.