SRA Surveys Locations For New Severn Oyster Reefs 

Thanks to a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance, SRA will be expanding our oyster restoration research operations this spring and summer to identify the best new locations for future oyster restoration reefs in the Severn River.

SRA’s Jack Beckham reading side-scan sonar.

The $10,000 grant will support a major study of river bottom conditions where historic oyster reefs once thrived in the Severn River.

Using a combination of side-scan sonar surveys and scuba diving teams, SRA will identify which historic oyster bars are good candidates for future restoration reefs.

These locations will be needed as SRA presses ahead with a long-term goal of bringing oysters back to the Severn River.

Step one in the process was for staff to learn how to conduct side-scan sonar surveys using equipment on loan from the US Naval Academy.

The dots are the remains of a reef ball installation at Winchester Lump.

That’s SRA’s Field Investigator, Jack Beckham, at left, learning how to distinguish structures on the river bottom, such as an oyster reef ball installation at a spot known as the Winchester Lump (below).

The SRA Team has also been busy surveying the five areas where oyster reefs have been restored between the Rt. 50 and USNA Bridges.

Below left is a sonar grid the SRA team created on SRA’s scientific research vessel, Sea Girl. This grid covers a dense oyster field on the Weems Upper oyster restoration reef.

Sonar grid pattern over Weems Upper oyster reef.

The Girls From Baltimore To Lead Scuba Dive To Ground Truth Sonar Scans

In Step Two of this research project, SRA will partner with the Black Girls Dive Foundation of Baltimore to send their dive teams of middle school and high school girls to inspect the river bottoms to ground truth the sonar surveys.

In Step three, SRA will organize another round of scientific oyster dives to assess conditions of oyster planted last August during Operation Build A Reef.  SRA and our partner, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, raised $30,000 to plant 20 million oyster spat on a new section of the Traces Hollow oyster reef in 2021.

This dive operation will calculate population density, survivability of the one-year old oysters at Traces Hollow.

Joining in the dive operation will be the leaders from last year’s oyster dive, Audrey Pleava and Emi McGeady.

They’ll be on hand to help train SRA’s Field Investigator, Jack Beckham, on how to conduct a formal oyster dive and assessment process.