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I get a little giddy when I see people enjoying our locally-farmed, boutique oysters in my adopted hometown of Mobile, Alabama. I find myself wanting to inspect the shape of their little bodies and perfection in the shape of their shell. I get the same feeling when I see crusty clumps of thriving oysters attached to reefs and pilings along our Gulf bays and estuaries. I’ve worked to restore shellfish for nearly 20 years, and I feel as much love and affection for these little bivalves today as I did when I started.

About my love affair: On my first research trip out to an oyster reef to check on the progress of a restoration project, I realized how amazing the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) really is. Oysters are one of the unsung heroes of the marine world. A healthy adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, hungrily gobbling up microscopic algae and removing dirt and other pollutants from the water. These hard working shellfish not only help improve the water quality and ecosystem health of our bays and estuaries, but the tens of thousands of oyster shells that make the foundation of oyster reefs also form natural barriers that can help reduce storm waves and mitigate the effects of sea-level rise. They also act as habitat for juvenile commercial fish, forage fish and other marine life like blue crab, shrimp and rockfish. In other words, these mollusks are a marine biologist’s dream come true…”

OysterLove-01

Image © Erica Sloniker/TNC

Read on at: Cool Green Science

The original version of this post appeared on TreeHugger.com.