Shellfish expert to discuss local oyster health

Inke Sunila, seen here hard at work, will be the speaker at the lecture.

Inke Sunila, seen here hard at work, will be the speaker at the lecture.

Acquire some pearls of wisdom on Nov. 19 when shellfish pathologist Inke Sunila will discuss “The Eastern Oyster, in Sickness and in Health” at the Bruce Museum.

Dr. Sunila is the environmental laboratory director for the State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Aquaculture. In her presentation, she will discuss some of the factors that have caused pathological changes in local oysters and their future in the changing oceans. Although infections and environmental stress may result in pathological changes, mollusks have sophisticated mechanisms to cope with disease and stress that have enabled them to survive in the world’s oceans for more than 450 million years.

“The sea is a breeding ground for pathogens, and oysters are exposed to innumerable infections caused by viruses, Rickettsiae, bacteria and different protozoan and metazoan parasites,” Dr. Sunila said. “Variations and extremes in temperature and salinity, pollutants, oxygen deficiency, old age, predation and biotoxins from plankton cause stress for oysters.”

Dr. Sunila is a native of Finland and completed her PhD studying pathology of blue mussels in the Baltic Sea. She carried out her postdoctoral research at George Washington University Medical Center, Department of Pathology, studying the herpes virus and microsporidian infections in AIDS patients. She was hired as State Shellfish Pathologist to Connecticut in 1997, when the oyster parasite MSX started to cause high mortalities in the state’s oyster beds.

The lecture is free to students with ID and costs $5 for museum members. The cost is $7 for non-members. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. and is preceded by a reception with light refreshments at 6:30 p.m. Make reservations by calling 203-413-6757.

For additional information, call the museum at 203-869-0376 or visit

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