Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oyster Gardening—Month Six: The “Spat” on Oysters!

Beczak Environmental Education Center, located on the Yonkers riverfront, is part of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program. In June 2009, six hundred “seed” oysters from Baykeepers’ Governors Island site were resettled in a floating cage hung off a piling in the Hudson River behind Beczak. Fifty of the oysters are in a sample study and kept in a separate cage. Educator Vicky Garufi checks them monthly to report back to NY/NJ Baykeeper. Watch this blog for her updates.

Having oysters at Beczak has been a great advantage to our education programs. This past fall we incorporated the oysters into our outdoor seining programs as an extra station for the larger class groups. Now, as part of our ongoing work with Yonkers Public Schools in which Beczak provides the labs for Riverside High School’s AP environmental class, we will study Hudson River oysters more closely.

November 17, I collected the larger sample of 550 oysters from the river, tossed them in a bucket, and drove them to the class of 10th graders that Beczak educators teach once a month. I introduced the role of oysters in the Hudson’s eco-system and we discussed why their population has declined drastically over the years. They learned about mollusks, both bivalves (oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) and gastropods (snails) by viewing various shells.

Then the students worked in groups to measure the oysters, record each one’s length onto a data sheet, and identify its predators such as amphipods, mud crabs, and worms. I also showed them the string of oyster shells that secure to the cage when submerged in the river. The purpose of this is to collect spat. “Spat” is the larval form of oysters. When these oyster babies are released, they drift in the water and attach to hard substrates such as rocks, drift wood and different kinds of mollusk shells. November was the first time we spotted spat!

Finding spat is a great indicator that the river is getting cleaner and gives hope that oysters can once again survive and reproduce in the Hudson!

Find out more about Beczak’s oyster gardening program. Click on these links below.

Month One: The oysters arrive
Month Three: Oyster Check-up
Month Four: Students Observe the Oysters

NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program
Beczak begins oyster gardening press release
“Moving Back Home” Hudson Valley Magazine

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education