Clarkson University Biology Professor Dr. Andrew David was recently awarded funding from the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative and the Nantucket Shellfish Association to examine the cause of aquatic diseases in farmed shellfish in the waters around Nantucket Island.
The funded research is expected to begin in July and will involve working closely with biologists on the island and staff at the Brant Point Hatchery.
New England has a rich history of shellfish aquaculture with farmed oysters and bay scallops being the two most intensively farmed mollusks in the region. However, climate change and diseases remain a viable threat to this industry both in the US and around the world.
David will be investigating anecdotal reports on recent spikes of polychaete worm infestations on bay scallops. While the infestation of mollusks by native shell boring polychaete worms is a natural occurrence, the reported increased intensities by farms could indicate a change in environmental parameters such as water temperature which may be favoring the proliferation of the worms or it could allude to a new non-native species present in the region. David will be spending more than a week on the island examining dozens of farmed oysters and carrying out taxonomic and molecular analysis on the parasites.
The project is expected to be completed within 12 months and will heavily involve undergraduate research students in processing samples, DNA extractions, and DNA barcoding. David plans to have a team of undergraduate researchers present their findings at the Nantucket Biodiversity conference once the project is completed.
The Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative seeks to conserve the native biodiversity of Nantucket, Tuckernuck, Muskeget and surrounding waters through collaborative research, monitoring and education. Established in 2003, the Nantucket Shellfish Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, that aims to protect and promote the Nantucket shell fishing industry.