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Clams as Restoration Tools: GSI Workshop Prioritizes Research Needs for Florida

The Gulf Shellfish Institute (GSI) works with industry, research and regulatory partners throughout Florida and the Gulf region to improve and increase the production of bivalve shellfish for both ecological and economic benefit. Key to their mission is the identification of research needs that will support the growth of the shellfish aquaculture industry. They aim to provide scientific expertise that will maximize production of bivalves for both consumptive and conservation objectives.

Bivalve shellfish, including clams, oysters and mussels, are filter feeders. By their simple acts of feeding and growing, high densities of bivalves are often credited with environmental benefits including increased water clarity, nutrient removal, and reductions in phytoplankton (microscopic algae).

The capacity of bivalve shellfish to provide these ecosystem services make them a prime candidate for efforts that aim to improve water quality, mitigate pollution, or enhance coastal environments. Additionally, aquacultured shellfish may be utilized to supplement declining populations of wild species for consumptive or conservation purposes. As clam restoration initiatives expand in Florida, so does the need for rigorous research that quantifies environmental impacts and addresses existing data gaps.

Using Clams for Restoration: An Overview of Workshop Objectives

To better inform ongoing and future restoration efforts involving hard clams (Mercenaria spp.) in Florida, the Gulf Shellfish Institute organized a three-day workshop with the following goals:

  • Synthesize current and relevant research;
  • Summarize ongoing clam restoration activities;
  • Identify data gaps & Prioritize research needs.

Presentations by experts, followed by engaging Q&A and breakout sessions allowed workshop participants to share information and communicate perspectives on research priorities to maximize the benefits of clam restoration activities within the southeastern US.

Workshop Agenda & Featured Speakers

GSI has shared the workshop materials online and will continue to update their website with relevant information. See below for information about featured speakers and links to the recorded presentations.

February 9
Welcome: Charlie Hunsicker, Director, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources*
Introduction: Dr. Dinorah Chacin, Gulf Shellfish Institute
A Brief History of Clams: Dr. William Arnold, Gulf Shellfish Institute

February 10
Water Filtration by Clams: Dr. Bruce Barber, Gulf Shellfish Institute
Nutrient Removal and Nitrogen Flux: Dr. Ashley Smyth, University of Florida
Carbon Mineralization in Cultured Clams: Dr. Patrick Baker, University of Florida

February 11
Seagrass Enhancement: Dr. Bradley Peterson, Stony Brook University
Getting Credit for Nutrient Removal by Clams: Dr. Matthew Parker, University of Maryland Extension

*The Gulf Shellfish Institute, Inc. was established in December 2015 and is based on the central west coast of Florida in Manatee County. This workshop was supported by funds allocated to GSI through Manatee County RESTORE Act initiatives that are focused on strengthening natural resources, improving water quality, and enhancing appreciation of the local seafood economy – including farmed bivalve shellfish.

The workshop planning team included representatives from the Gulf Shellfish Institute, Florida Sea Grant, GCOOS, the University of Florida IFAS Extension & UF SFRS.