Saving Oysters in Oregon – week 1

Hello there!

A quick introduction:  My name is Joanne Choi and I am recent graduate from Yale University where I studied Environmental Studies with an emphasis on marine systems.  My main research interest was in jellyfish ecology, specifically relationships with endosymbiotic bacteria and polyp settlement.  I have also done research in the Turks & Caicos Islands with the School for Field Studies on the effectiveness of marine protected areas, and in St. Thomas, USVI on rates of soil run-off and sedimentation in the Caribbean.  I am here in the Oregon Sea Grant program to gain more experience before I apply to graduate school for a career in marine environmental work at the intersection of science, policy, and outreach!  Outside of academics, I am a socal native, a dancer, an amateur-but-almost-there! scuba diver, a travel addict, a recreational photographer, and.. a dork.. as evidenced by the fact that it took me at least 30 minutes to find a nice, serious picture of me appropriate for this website.


Now, on to more important things… What exactly am I doing during my internship with Oregon Sea Grant?


I am working to restore the Native Olympia Oysters, Ostrea lurida, to Coos Bay and the South Slough in Oregon.  They used to flourish in the estuaries and coastal waters off the west coast hundreds of years ago before the Native Americans harvested them, tsunamis and earthquakes buried them under sediment, Europeans brought over non-native Pacific oysters for large-scale production, and the usual habitat modification, sedimentation, overfishing, and so on from human use of coastal lands.

Oysters provide many indispensable ecosystem services, however, including:

  • improving water quality through filtration
  • ocean bottom stabilization
  • providing a complex habitat for biodiverse ecosystems

and thus, it would be extremely advantageous for us to help these at-risk species recover to sustainable levels.

My Advisor…

is Steve Rumrill, a scientist at South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, an assistant professor at University of Oregon, graduate faculty at Oregon State University, and on the board for (it seems like) countless councils and advisory committees.  Even if I have only known him for a few days, I can say that he is an amazing mentor who is extremely willing to share his knowledge and expertise, offer opportunities for me to get as much hands-on training and experience as I can, and give advice on how to maneuver in the marine world career-wise.

What I’ve done so far..

  1. I read tons and TONS of academic papers, packets on workshop proceedings, a powerpoint, etc on oyster ecology, oyster restoration efforts around the world, and the natural history of Olympia oysters in Coos Bay.  I didn’t know much about oysters to begin with, so I had to be caught up.
  2. Made friends with the summer session and graduate students here at OIMB.  At first, I was worried that I was the only OSG scholar in Charleston, OR, which is at least 2 hours away from the rest of the group.  But the people here are extremely friendly and fun, and there are tons of cool things to do here.  I’ve already gone to a beach bonfire, tidepooling, trekked through a tunnel to find an isolated beach, and into Coos Bay a few times (had to go to Goodwill because, Daang! it’s COLDER than I thought it would be!)
  3. Collected oyster shell bags and scrubbed them.  Bags of Pacific oyster shells (because there are a lot of them) are deployed in various locations in Coos Bay as recruitment sites for Olympia oyster larvae.  After a year or two, they are taken out of the water and cleaned to remove possible competitors, predators, sand and mud that may decrease flow-through, so that the juvenile Oysters have a better chance at survival.  They are also scrubbed so that invasive species are not spread when we re-locate bags.
  4. Had meetings with other graduate students, postdocs, professors, and policy makers who are all involved in the oyster restoration process.

What I will do next..

  1. Make Oly ROCS (Olympia – Restore Oysters with Cement Substrata).  We are going to construct, test, deploy, and evaluate a new technique to embed living Oly (Olympia) oysters into substrate that will hopefully attract more oysters to attach and settle for a more long-term arrangement than the oyster shell bags.
  2. There are many more possible projects including installing & operating a water quality datalogger, and some personal projects of mine such as attempting to mountain bike to get to some cool sites around here, but I will explain more about those as they come up!


APOLOGIES for making this SOO long!  I wasn’t expecting to be such a talkative blogger, but SO much has happened in the past week!  I’ll try to take more pictures so you can see all my cool projects in-action, but as you’ll soon see, it can become quite a dirty job working in the field with mud.. not to mention a little dangerous for a digital camera when you’re working with water.

Until next time!!

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One thought on “Saving Oysters in Oregon – week 1

  1. Sounds like you need a ziptop baggie for your camera and a sturdy strap! Glad that you’re getting settled in So OR.

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