Improving juvenile oyster survival through adaptation and screening of ocean acidification impacts (July 2014 – June 2016)

George Waldbusser
Oregon State University
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
104 CEOAS Administration Building
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
Phone: 541-737-8964
Co-PI: Nina Bednarsek, NOAA-PMEL and OSU

What do you get when you combine smartphone camera technology with $10 in microscope parts? George Waldbusser and his team work closely with the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry to adapt this simple technology for assessing a real-world problem. Putting an expanded toolbox in the hands of oyster growers provides them a window into oyster survival under changing ocean conditions, including ocean acidification, and not a moment too soon.

Ocean acidification nearly devastated the approximately $110M per year US Pacific Northwest oyster industry in the late 2000's due to several years of persistent hatchery failures occurring during periods of strong ocean upwelling. The reverberations from these hatchery failures still impact the industry, with hatcheries unable to meet the growing demand for seed, and industry personnel noting poor survival and setting success. Oysters are in demand globally as one of the most sustainably cultivated protein sources. Oysters also provide valuable ecosystem services, but oyster aquaculture is vastly under-developed in the United States.

Waldbusser helped shellfish industry stakeholders identify key bottlenecks in the life cycle of oysters exposed to ocean acidification. Growers now take measures to improve water chemistry, but lack the tools to easily characterize oyster fitness during the production cycle. Building on this very successful public-private partnership, the team is uniquely positioned to enhance insights into ocean acidification effects on oyster aquaculture.

By adapting extremely cost-effective microscopy approaches, Waldbusser and his team put what was once very expensive technology into the hands of growers. Laboratory staining techniques are adapted to provide rapid-response visual interpretation of oyster seed and spat condition. This work expands the Pacific Northwest oyster industry capabilities so that growers can implement operational resilience and adaptation strategies. Ensuring existing and future oyster growers have the tools and capacity for adaptation to global change is crucial for ensuring continuing and increasing production to meet demand.

Strategic Plan Focus Area: Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Learn more: