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Oyster Reefs

Oyster sampling with Dredge

The Oyster group is examining how genetic, taxonomic and functional diversity affect an oyster reef’s resilience to the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) oil spill. As oysters are sessile as adults but pelagic as larvae, there are several pathways (ingestion, direct contact, water column, sediment) that allow for oil or dispersant exposure. The Oyster group has hypothesized that increased genetic diversity will result in higher survival, reproduction and growth of oyster reefs exposed to oil and that increased taxonomic diversity of other suspension feeders in the oyster reef will have higher resilience towards oil exposure. They are also testing the idea that stress related to oiling will lead to reduced diversity and overall resilience of the community and that the relationship between resilience and diversity can be modified by other stressors such as salinity or dispersant exposure. Oyster reefs are being sampled in multiple locations from Louisiana to Florida. All reef species are being identified and samples collected for genetic analysis. Mesocosm experiments will also be conducted to further study the relationship between genetic diversity, oil exposure and salinity.

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