On Saturday April 25th two of our key partners both celebrated the 25th anniversary of their open house events. The NERR staff were excited to participate in both! At Discovery Day, the Romberg Tiburon Center’s Open House, participants answered a research question that has also captured the curiosity of our own Matt Ferner and his colleagues including Andy Chang of SERC and Kerstin Wasson on Elkhorn Slough NERR: How do native oysters respond to big storms? Before Discovery Day, we set up two pairs of tanks – one pair (tanks A and B) were both filled with baywater (about 30 ppt) and the other pair (tanks C and D) were filled with low salinity water (about 5 ppt), one of each pair had oysters (tanks A and C) and one didn’t (tanks B and D). We put the same amount of phytoplankton in each tank at 7:30 am. By 1pm, when the Romberg Tiburon Center opened its’ doors to the public, the oysters in tank A had eaten enough phytoplankton that the color of the water was slightly different in tanks A and B. The oysters in tank A filtered their way through the day, leaving the tank nearly clear when the final visitors waved good bye.


The oysters in tank C didn’t filter any of the phytoplankton all day; they just weren’t eating. Why not? Participants were empowered to investigate. NERR staff guided them by the most apparent answer (“the oysters aren’t hungry”) and towards an environmental explanation by giving them tools to measure water salinity and temperature. The visitors discovered what scientists have; native Olympia oysters don’t eat when the salinity is very low. Oysters can survive like this for awhile, but it is stressful (because they can’t eat, breathe, or excrete wastes that build up).

Throughout the day we asked participants to graph the data they collected. The data are noisy, as is expected with so many people of many ages contributing, but can you see the trends?




The NERR and our partners are studying what stresses the oysters so we can protect and create oyster habitat in areas where they are likely to survive now, and in 50 years when the estuary is different because of climate change. You can learn more about this work here: http://www.sfbaysubtidal.org/oysters_guide_restoration.html

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