Mission: Lure filter feeders to back to the shores of the Indian River Lagoon
Florida Tech’s Indian River Lagoon Research Institute (IRLRI) hosted several oyster mat workshops for the community this spring. The goal of the Living Docks program, led by associate professor Robert Weaver and research assistant professorKelli Hunsucker in the Department of Ocean Engineering and Sciences, is to bring back habitat for oysters lost to costal construction, seawalls and pollution in the Indian River Lagoon.
Oyster mats are made with oyster shells securely tied to mesh sheets that can then be hung from the pilings of docks. The shells attract the larva of filter feeding organisms such as oysters, sponges, barnacles and tunicates. Oyster mats teeming with new life have the potential to significantly improve local water quality as well as provide habitat for crabs and fish.
And, besides filtering impurities from the water, many marine species depend on oysters for food and habitat; and large clumps of oysters create natural reefs that help block wave energy, which prevents shoreline erosion.
The oyster shells come from the Shuck & Share Oyster Recycling Project. Participating restaurants up and down Brevard and Volusia counties donate their shells to the Brevard Zoo. The zoo sun-bleaches the shells and then distributes them to organizations such as the IRLRI for programs such as Living Docks.
Here is a look at recent oyster mat making events with the IRLRI.