Zostera marina is a seagrass species, commonly known as eelgrass, that is found on both coasts of the United States, as well as in Europe. Unfortunately, Zostera is disappearing all over the place, including right here in New York. This could have devastating impacts on animals that rely on eelgrass as foraging grounds, or, as is the case with scallops, use it as a refuge from predation. This is its story, as seen through the eyes of an aspiring graduate student...
According to the Virginian-Pilot, bay scalloping has been pretty good this year out of the outer banks, pretty good news, after not having the fishery open at all for a couple years. Read the article here, the picture is from the article.
So for the past few days I was in Corpus Christi, TX, for the Benthic Ecology meetings. It was great. It was smaller this year than in years past, and I think the coziness lead to much better interactions between people this year. I think my presentation went well (nobody threw shoes at me or anything like that). I was also able to visit the Texas State Aquarium and I frequented Crawdaddy's (the website doesn't do this place justice) for meals. I mean it doesn't get better than no frills, cheap beer and fried food. Best crawfish and fried okra I ever had (ok, first crawfish and okra I ever had), but they also had really good gumbo, and their service staff was incredibly friendly (although I imagine that just might be the way things are in Texas). The bar scene wasn't too shabby either. But for the business aspect of things, I saw a number of really good talks and interesting posters. There was a large contingent from VIMS, whose talks ranged from bay scallops to blue crabs to oysters to seagrass, whose talks and posters were very good. There is a lot of good work going on down there. DISL was also well represented, with numerous talks and posters, many of which focused on fisheries and trophic interactions. Overall, it was a very good conference. I was able to talk to alot of people about my research and theirs - a few people working with scallops, some about blue crabs (which I hope to work with in the future) and a bunch of people about artificial seagrass units. All in all, I think this meeting was much better in terms of interaction, and I look forward to attending next year in North Carolina!!!
I am a marine biologist that is currently attending graduate school at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Marine Sciences Research Center, of Stony Brook University, New York. I am very interested in marine ecology and have been focusing my studies on bay scallop interactions with their habitats. I plan to investigate various anthropogenic impacts on bay scallop populations for my PhD dissertation. This blog will highlight the details of my graduate research, from bay scallop-eelgrass interactions as previously mentioned, to alternative habitats for scallops, such as Codium, to trophic cascades, and more. Enjoy!
Eelgrass is an important habitat for multiple marine species, including the bay scallop
Scallop on Artificial Eelgrass
This tethered juvenile bay scallop attached itself to my artificial eelgrass...
The decline of eelgrass meadows
Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is a flowering, marine vascular plant that remains submerged all the time. This is quite a feat for vascular flowering plants, and only a few dozen species world wide are capable of growing completely submerged in a marine environment. Eelgrass creates and extremely important habitat, its upright structures and complex root system create a 3-D living space for many different types of animals. It is (or was) the dominant habitat forming SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) throughout much of the coastal waters in the northeastern United States. Unfortunately, for various reasons, eelgrass meadows have seen drastic declines, and in many locations eelgrass only exists in a mosaic of small patches. This is extremely bad news as many of the important, and formerly important, commercial and recreational fisheries of the northeast US are dependent on Zostera at some part of their life cycle as a nursery and foraging ground. Some of the species are finfish like tautog, bluefish, fluke, winter flounder, porgies, while others are shellfish such as blue mussels, hard clams, oysters, bay scallops, and blue crabs. Many of the aforementioned species support or once supported vibrant fisheries. Many of those fisheries have collapsed, also for various reasons. However, is it possible there is a link between the crash of the fisheries, the decline of Zostera and the failure for recovery on both ends?
Eelgrass, Zostera marina, a temperate seagrass species, providing a vital habitat for numerous marine species
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Scallops in eelgrass
Some adult bay scallops we planted in eelgrass for a free release survival experiment we conducted
If you live in coastal zones, urge your local and state representatives to push for environmental issues that you are concerned about. Ask for more stringent rules regarding the destruction of existing eelgrass. Encourage restoration programs to be set-up. Call your state and national representatives and ask them what they are doing to protect our precious resources. Practice safer boating and know the undersea terrain - i.e., don't drive your boat in very shallow water. Avoid clamming in eelgrass meadows.