Expert to discuss vital roles shellfish play in ecosystem

Don’t be “shellfish” — take a trip under the sea on Oct. 22 when the Bruce Museum will host shellfish expert Sandra E. Shumway, who will discuss the multiple roles that shellfish play as an industry commodity, efficient ecosystem engineers and coveted food.

Oysters, mussels, scallops and clams are key members of the marine environment. These shellfish are among the most important of ecosystem engineers and providers of ecosystem services. They also provide an important food source for human consumption and are the basis for successful aquaculture businesses.

“Shellfish aquaculture and restoration continue to expand globally, as do eutrophication, harmful algal blooms and degradation of coastal environments,” said Dr. Shumway.

During eutrophication, waters become rich in mineral and organic nutrients that promote the growth of plant life, especially algae, which reduces the dissolved oxygen content and often causes harmful die-offs of other organisms.

“Restoration and aquaculture are both increasingly touted as means of habitat restoration, and as potential sources of mitigation for coastal degradation,” Dr. Shumway added. “At some scales, shellfish restoration and establishment of sustainable molluscan shellfish aquaculture operations can mitigate effects of coastal development and eutrophication; however, the expectations and publicity are reaching unrealistic levels.”

Dr. Shumway’s presentation will open a discussion of the realistic expectations that could result from exploitation of bivalve mollusks, whether in restored reefs or in aquaculture farms, as long-term ecosystem engineers and mitigators of coastal degradation. She will also address shellfish on the menu.

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. and is preceded by refreshments and open galleries at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $7 to the public, $5 for Bruce Museum members, and free for students with ID. For reservations, call 203-413-6757.

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