Marine Biology at Florida Tech: Saving Ecosystems 36 Shells at a Time

At their last meeting, the members of Tri Beta (the biological honor society) had a speaker from the Brevard Zoo discuss oyster mat degradation and its impact on Florida ecosystems. She went into detail about oyster populations and the effects of their decline as a result of them being a keystone species. This speaker was not like most speakers, she did not just take questions at the end and leave, but she let the members of Tri Beta get involved!

Not only did Tri Beta members get involved, but as we set up outside, even other people on campus were able to stop by and see what was going on and lend a hand.

While we were perched in front of the Olin Life Science building, huge buckets of shells were brought to us, shortly followed by a mesh square and 36 zip ties. Since oyster mats are vanishing, conservationists are working to make artificial oyster mats to rebuild the ones that are depleting in mass numbers.

Various research had come up with the ideal number of 36. 36 shells per mat  is the ideal number to yield larval settlement of oysters, and 36 shells was all it took for us to create our own oyster mat which would then be distributed by the zoo.

How do you make an oyster mat?

Take the pre-measured piece of mesh, a zip tie, and an oyster shell. Put the zip tie through the oyster shell (there are holes drilled in them), put it across the mesh, leaving one bar between each end of the zip tie, and fasten the zip tie as tightly as possible. The main thing to remember is to do it randomly. There should not be a specific pattern to the shells that are put on.

Want to get involved?

You can either contact the Brevard Zoo, or you can send me an email at with your information and I’ll forward it to the Brevard Zoo.

You can also comment on this post with any questions or interest to  get involved.

The Brevard Zoo is always looking for new volunteers!


Shelby working on her oyster mat
Liz showcasing her finished oyster mat

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