Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Whitney Lab Seeks Citizen Scientists; Volunteers Are Needed to Boost Oyster Population

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Whitney Lab Seeks Citizen Scientists; Volunteers Are Needed to Boost Oyster Population

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Korfhage

One of the world's favorite edible and useful sea creatures, the oyster, is facing decline, and the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience is trying to reverse the trend.

And the staff at Whitney is asking for a little help. It wants people interested in becoming oyster farmers.

The project is part of the lab's oyster restoration initiative. It requires 50 volunteers who live along the waterways between St. Augustine and Palm Coast.

To participate, volunteers are required to own a saltwater dock anywhere between St. Augustine and Palm Coast where oysters naturally grow; attend a short workshop to learn how to be an oyster gardener; commit to approximately one to two hours per week to monitor, maintain and record data; and be able to lift 30 pounds.

Volunteers will monitor their oyster habitats for about one year, then return the oysters to the lab for use in restoration projects.

The reason for the project is stewardship of the coastal waters, said Jessica Long, the lab's director of development and external relations.

"We know it's something we can deploy in this area," she said. "We're really working to restore the oyster population along the coast. We definitely have lost oysters all over the world."

Trouble harvesting oysters is nothing new. In Florida, the Apalachicola Bay oyster season is limited for both recreational and commercial harvesting, and it is closed entirely on weekends. The area has been plagued with shortages over the last several years.

The shortages are not only bad news for those looking at oysters as a food source but for the overall water quality in areas where they are - or were - naturally prevalent.

"They are very important in waterways because they clean a substantial amount of water," Long said of the filter feeders. …

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