Breaking Ground in Oyster Restoration!

Published: December 11, 2023


Amazing news on the oyster restoration front: thanks to a new grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance, we’re thrilled to share the details of our groundbreaking project on deploying oyster larvae in the Severn River. Instead of using spat-on-shell, we will be placing larvae directly on the oyster reef for restoration (“direct setting”). This will be accomplished through a battery-operated pump-based larval transport mechanism with the potential to revolutionize oyster restoration efforts.

This method of releasing oyster larvae directly onto hard substrate in our sanctuary waters is based on research from NOAA, among others, and could address logistical challenges associated with larger scale efforts and reduce reliance on the rapidly dwindling supply of oyster shell. To ensure success, we’ll deploy larvae during slack tide in Fall 2024, taking advantage of temperature and salinity conditions that naturally induce settlement. We’re also going to expose the larvae to L-DOPA, a neurotransmitter, to accelerate settlement, reducing the time larvae are exposed to potential risks.

We’re proud to collaborate with experts like Dr. Jason Spires to optimize larval delivery and survival protocols. Additionally, we’re exchanging insights with another group working on a larval delivery system, enhancing the effectiveness of both projects.

As part of our commitment to increasing representation in environmental careers, we’re inviting the Black Girls Dive Foundation in Baltimore to join us in this project. This initiative aims to provide African American girls with access to this innovative oyster larvae deployment method, additional diving experience, and knowledge about the vital roles oysters play in the Chesapeake region.

Our commitment doesn’t stop with the project. We’ll conduct surveys in spring 2025 to verify that our larval delivery system worked and measure new oyster growth. We will continue partnering with the Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative, Chesapeake Oyster Alliance, and Oyster Recovery Partnership. These collaborations ensure our efforts are guided by expert advice and support. Follow us on this journey to redefine oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay! 

Image credit: Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery