In general, I'm interested in how humans impact coastal marine ecosystems. What we learn from human impacts can be used for conservation and restoration.
Olympia oysters used to be more abundant on the West Coast, their populations declined due to over-harvesting and pollution and some other stresses and so there is a lot of interest in restoring populations of these oysters, they are ecologically important, they filter water, they provide habitat for a lot of other organisms at the base of the food chain.
But, we're not sure how to restore them so that they can be successful now and into their future. Right now, I am growing oysters from six different populations, from three estuaries along the California coast and the next step is to test those six different populations, how they respond to increased temperatures, low-salinity and ocean acidification.
What we do is we bring oysters from the field from estuaries like San Francisco Bay and we feed them and keep them warm and hope they will reproduce. So, studying oysters means feeding oysters and oysters can eat a lot. They're filter feeders, they will filter algae out of the water so in order to feed these insatiable animals I grow massive amounts of algae.
Currently the oysters I'm growing can go through an entire tank every day. So, these are the children of the oysters that were originally from the estuaries and these are all about a year old. They were born in this lab last October and I've been growing them since then.
So, my hope is that my research, which will help us determine what populations of oysters are particularly vulnerable to future changes or particularly robust to future changes will help us determine how to best restore the populations and can contribute to restoration that will be successful, given some of the changes we know that are coming down the pipe for oceans.