Imaging Oyster Restoration Reefs

Published: December 13, 2023

SRA/SERC Team Captures Stunning Images Of Severn River Oysters

Thanks to a novel program that uses GoPro cameras to study oysters on our restoration reefs, we now have a series of stunning visuals of life on several oyster bars in the Severn River.  

Thanks to a team of SRA volunteers who sallied out on our research vessel, Sea Girl, on cold November and December days, we were able to capture videos revealing a mix of healthy young oysters on the Wade, Weems Upper, Traces Hollow and Chinks Pt. oyster bars. 

Thanks to cold water temperatures at this time of year, there is no algae activity to muddy the views, so you can clearly study the habitat that oyster reefs provide. 

In the videos, you can see not only oysters, but also barnacles, sea sprouts, fish, mud crabs and even some horned pondweed underwater grass. Clarity is so good in cold water that we even captured an image of the river bottom at 9.5 meters depth next to the Jonas Green fishing pier! 

Check out these fabulous screenshots from the videos at depths of 3 to 5.4 meters. Below on the left, oysters and barnacles on Weems Upper. In the middle, oysters on the Wade Reef and on the right, a field of oysters on the Traces Hollow reef.  

To create these images, SRA was one of several river groups partnering with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) oyster reef monitoring project. Our teams used a GoPro camera array that is lowered onto an oyster reef to record two-minute videos. 

Here’s our Chesapeake Conservation Climate Corps intern, Grace, managing the GoPro camera array in November (image at left), and volunteer, Brendan, deploying the array in December (image at right).

The SERC GoPro project produces videos so researchers can see the reefs in action so they can assess the structure of oyster reefs and the habitat that reefs provide for various organisms that live on the reefs. 

Surprise! Underwater Grass sprouting!

Some more cool news – we spotted some Horned Pondweed sprouting in a couple of places (see image below). This was a surprise because horned pondweed is normally considered a “spring” grass that reveals itself in early March. 

And, another surprise – this small patch of horned pondweed was found in an area where we’ve never noticed underwater grasses before – at the foot of the USNA Bridge. 

SERC scientist Anna Davis explains that the goal of her program “is to put GoPro cameras into the hands of community volunteers to get eyes on these restored reefs. Not only does the project benefit the community, it also benefits science. Having the participation of volunteers allows for us to get eyes on a greater number of reefs than one lab could accomplish.”

Let’s give three cheers to our volunteers who braved the chilly, but sunny, days to obtain these videos. 

To view a slideshow of our oyster monitoring team, click HERE

Special thanks to all our volunteers who made these videos possible: Kathryn, Jason, Grace, Emi, Brendan, Dan, Karen. 

Photos: Karen Guay

For more information, contact SRA’s Project Officer Tom Guay at taguay@severnriver.org