Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oyster Gardening - Month Seven: “Oysters on Ice”

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.

What happens to oysters when the water temperature drops and the river freezes? Do oysters hibernate like some mammals? Do they migrate like some fishes and birds?

I was very excited to participate in the oyster restoration project with NY/NJ Baykeeper but I was the first to admit that I was no oyster expert. For instance, I really didn’t know how oysters survived the winter.

I did some research before our last cold snap and, to my surprise; I learned that oysters could tolerate freezing water but not freezing air. When the water temperature drops below 32 degrees and the river becomes covered in ice, oysters temporarily stop growing. They survive in their tough shells and then continue growing when the ice thaws and the water temperatures rise.

Because our oysters are in a cage that hangs from a piling—not resting on the river floor like they would be in the wild—I needed to make sure they were secured and fully submerged at the lowest tides during the winter.

Right now at Beczak the oysters and I are in hibernation. I have stopped recording and submitting the data for the winter season. I will continue in March when the water temperature is slightly warmer and more tolerable for me to enter the river and pull the cage out. Be sure to check in on their status!

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education and Outreach

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