- Press Release Distribution

For bay oysters, protection plus restoration creates healthiest reefs

Underwater videos reveal thriving reefs and provide scientists a quick, low-cost method to rate habitats

( Actively restoring oyster reefs--beyond simply protecting them from harvest--can create big payoffs for habitat quality and the other species that flock to them. A new study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), published June 3 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, compared restored, protected and harvested areas using photos and video footage from roughly 200 sites.

Roughly a quarter of Maryland's oyster habitat lies protected in oyster sanctuaries. But only a small fraction of those sanctuaries have undergone full-scale restorations, with reconstructed reefs and new live oyster plantings. The new paper offers an easier way to determine if those restorations are paying off.

"You've got to actively restore something," said Keira Heggie, lead author of the study and a technician in SERC's Fisheries Conservation Lab. "But if you actively restore something and then let it go by its wayside, then you're not going to know exactly if it's still doing well."

The results also give a clear picture of restoration's benefits, which have seen hot debate in recent years.

"There are people who feel like the restoration's really working, and there's other people who feel like it's a lot of money that you're throwing in the water," said Matt Ogburn, co-author and SERC senior scientist. "Being able to have ways to collect the data to determine whichever of those outcomes happen, or something in the middle, is really important."

Reef Scorecards

Getting good data on oyster habitats can be expensive and even destructive. Traditionally, scientists have relied on diving surveys, which can take hours to perform and process, or using claw-like patent tongs, which rake up parts of the reef for analysis.

Ogburn, Heggie and the Fisheries Conservation Lab came up with the video method while doing sonar surveys for fish. While their sonar equipment could pick up fish movement, it could not tell them much about the underwater habitat.

"We couldn't see that very well with the sonar," Ogburn said. "So we just started sticking a GoPro camera on the bottom of the sonar frame and taking pictures."

When they discovered the footage was clear enough, the team decided to apply it to oyster habitat. They took their GoPro cameras to four tributaries of Maryland's Choptank River. Three are home to large-scale restorations: Harris Creek, Little Choptank and Tred Avon. The fourth, Broad Creek, is one of Maryland's most productive harvest areas.

The biologists collected at least two minutes of underwater video and photos from each of the approximately 200 sites they surveyed. They used the videos to assign each site a "habitat score," from zero to three. A score of zero meant the site had no hard surfaces for oysters to settle on. A one meant up to half of the area had hard surfaces, and two meant more than half of the area had hard surfaces but those surfaces were relatively flat. To get a top ranking of three, a site had to have both hard surface coverage greater than half and the complex, vertical structure that gives fish and other species plenty of spaces to live or hide.

They then compared their more qualitative, video method with a more data-intense photo method. Besides yielding more precise figures on hard surface cover, the team's photo analysis also revealed the different kinds of creatures living with the oysters.

But most importantly, the photos confirmed that Heggie and Ogburn's quick-and-dirty video method worked. Sites that got higher scores in their general video analyses also showed higher-quality habitat and more diverse species under the scrutiny of their photo analyses. And in a single day, the team could cover five or six times more sites with their video cameras than divers or tong surveys could do.

"It's a really easy, fast method to go out and keep tally on how the reefs are doing," Heggie said.

When Protection Is Not Enough

Protected, restored reefs earned by far the highest scores for oyster habitat. In the Harris Creek sanctuary, where reef restorations were already two years old at the time of the study, 74% of the restored reefs earned a top ranking of "three" for hard surface coverage and vertical structure.

Harvest areas in Broad Creek and at the mouth of Harris Creek sometimes scored well for hard surface coverage (20-30% of the time), but they rarely had the taller, complex structures many underwater animals rely on. Meanwhile, protected but unrestored areas in Harris Creek did the poorest. Their top score was two, and only 8% received even that--meaning almost all the unrestored sanctuary reefs had no more than half their terrain covered with hard surfaces for oysters to grow on.

Ogburn views that last finding as a message: Oyster sanctuaries can support healthy reefs, but they often need some investment.

"There certainly are places where there just isn't good habitat for them," he said. "And until you create that through restoration, you're not going to have oysters there, or not have a lot."

But when sanctuaries do have plenty of oysters, he added, the benefits will likely spillover to help the men and women working on the water.

"The hope is that by creating these sanctuaries with really healthy oyster reefs, they'll be self-sustaining, but also produce larvae that get carried out into the harvest areas and help supplement the harvest as well," he said.


A full copy of this study will be available after publication at For a sample of the team's underwater footage from the Harris Creek sanctuary, visit For additional photos, an advance copy of the paper, or to speak with the authors, contact Kristen Minogue at


Noise and light pollution can change which birds visit our backyards

Noise and light pollution can change which birds visit our backyards
A new study reports that birds across the continental U.S. tend to avoid backyard feeders in louder areas. When light and noise pollution were both present, even more species stayed away. The study, published in Global Change Biology, used data from the community science program Program FeederWatch. The research team analyzed more than 3.4 million observations of 140 different bird species across the continental U.S. "Broadly speaking, we are just starting to dive into the consequences of light and noise for animals," said Ashley Wilson, a graduate student at California Polytechnic State University who led the study. "Most studies focus on a single species' responses to noise or light pollution. As such, our study involving 140 species provides the most comprehensive assessment ...

LIM domain only 1: One gene, many roles in cancer

LIM domain only 1: One gene, many roles in cancer
Humans have been plagued by a myriad of deadly cancers since ages. Parallelly, they have also been attempting different permutations and combinations of treatments to cure the disease. Part of these attempts involving biomolecular targets have come to the fore in recent years. Like a broad-spectrum antibiotic that can attack and eliminate several microbes at a time, some of these biomolecular targets, when manipulated appropriately, can alleviate different cancers. One such biomolecular target of interest is LIM domain only 1 gene (LMO1). LMO1 codes for a protein 'connector' that helps in the assembly ...

Memory biomarkers confirm aerobic exercise helps cognitive function in older adults

Memory biomarkers confirm aerobic exercise helps cognitive function in older adults
Increasing evidence shows that physical activity and exercise training may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In aging humans, aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function. The ability to measure the effects of exercise on systemic biomarkers associated with risk for AD and relating them to key metabolomic alterations may further prevention, monitoring, and treatment efforts. However, systemic biomarkers that can measure exercise effects on brain function and that link to relevant metabolic responses are lacking. To address this issue, Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University's ...

Active platinum species

Highly dispersed platinum catalysts provide new possibilities for industrial processes, such as the flameless combustion of methane, propane, or carbon monoxide, which has fewer emissions and is more resource efficient and consistent than conventional combustion. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, a team of researchers reports on which platinum species are active in high-temperature oxidations and what changes they can undergo in the course of the process--important prerequisites for the optimization of catalysts. Individual metal atoms and clusters consisting of only a few metal atoms have interesting catalytic properties determined by the exact nature of the active metal species. Usually, these are highly dispersed and deposited on ...

Screening uptake may contribute to higher risk of colon cancer for black people

Screening uptake may contribute to higher risk of colon cancer for black people
Black people have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than white people, but this risk is likely not due to genetics. Data from a recent study by researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine adds more data to the existing evidence. "The next step is determining what is behind this increased risk," said lead author Thomas Imperiale, M.D., Regenstrief Institute research scientist, VA investigator and professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at IU School of Medicine. "Lifestyle and healthcare-related behaviors may explain some of the difference." ...

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine protective against SARS-CoV-2 variants

Washington, D.C. - June 9, 2021 - The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is protective against several SARS-CoV-2 variants that have emerged, according to new research presented in the journal mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. While this is good news, the study also found that the only approved monoclonal antibody therapy for SARS-CoV-2 might be less effective against SARS-CoV-2 variants in laboratory experiments. "The vaccines provide very strong protection against the earlier forms of the virus as well as the newer variants. This is an important point because I have heard people say that they don't think there is a reason to get vaccinated, because the vaccine isn't going to ...

Could naked mole rats hold key to curing cancer and dementia?

Scientists say naked mole rats - a rodent native to West Africa - may hold the key to new treatments for degenerative diseases such as cancer and dementia. The reclusive animals have a lifespan far in excess of other rodents - for example, mice and rats live about two years, whereas naked mole rats can live for 40 or 50 years. Researchers at the University of Bradford say the animals have a unique DNA repair mechanism that enables them to prevent cancers and other degenerative conditions, including dementia. Cancer resistant Professor Sherif El-Khamisy, Director of the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics at the University, said: "Naked mole rats are fascinating ...

New study gives clue to the cause, and possible treatment of Parkinson's Disease

New study gives clue to the cause, and possible treatment of Parkinsons Disease
Niigata, Japan - Researchers from Brain Research Institute, Niigata University, Japan may have unraveled a new approach that could revolutionize the treatment, prevention, and possibly reversal of the damages that could lead to Parkinson's Disease (PD). This novel finding utilizing the cellular and zebrafish models, demonstrated how the leakage of mitochondrial dsDNA into the cytosol environment of the cell can contribute to the impairment of brain tissue of patients with PD. Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, and its prevalence ...

Many surgery patients get opioid prescriptions, but many don't need to, study suggests

Surgeons can ease their patients' pain from common operations without prescribing opioids, and avoid the possibility of starting someone on a path to long-term use, a pair of new studies suggests. Treating post-surgery pain with non-opioid pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen didn't lead to higher pain levels or more serious issues during recovery, and didn't dampen patients' satisfaction with their care, according to new results from a study of more than 22,000 patients who had one of seven common operations at 70 hospitals. The team behind the study has also produced a free, evidence-based guide for surgeons and other acute care providers, ...

Cloud computing expands brain sciences

Cloud computing expands brain sciences
People often think about human behavior in terms of what is happening in the present--reading a newspaper, driving a car, or catching a football. But other dimensions of behavior extend over weeks, months, and years. Examples include a child learning how to read; an athlete recovering from a concussion; or a person turning 50 and wondering where all the time has gone. These are not changes that people perceive on a day-to-day basis. They just suddenly realize they're older, healed, or have a new development skill. "The field of neuroscience looks at the brain in multiple ways," says Franco Pestilli, a neuroscientist at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). "For ...


Cat-borne parasite Toxoplasma induces fatally bold behavior in hyena cubs

Nature article: Dieting and its effect on the gut microbiome

NIH scientists describe "Multi-Kingdom Dialogue" between internal, external microbiota

Melatonin in mice: there's more to this hormone than sleep

Wild bees need deadwood in the forest

A triple-system neural model of maladaptive consumption

Milk protein could help boost blueberries' healthfulness

Seeking a treatment for IBS pain in tarantula venom

Addressing inequity in air quality

Roughness of retinal layers, a new Alzheimer's biomarker

Study links sleep apnea in children to increased risk of high blood pressure in teen years

Black patients with cirrhosis more likely to die, less likely to get liver transplant

Researchers outline specific patterns in reading in Russian

These sea anemones have a diverse diet. And they eat ants

Viruses as communication molecules

Spirituality can promote the health of breast cancer survivors

Tiny ancient bird from China shares skull features with Tyrannosaurus rex

University of Minnesota Medical School report details the effects of COVID-19 on adolescent sexual health

Odd smell: flies sniff ammonia in a way new to science

Fracture setting method could replace metal plates, with fewer complications

Sneeze cam reveals best fabric combos for cloth masks (video)

'Lady luck' - Does anthropomorphized luck drive risky financial behavior?

People willing to pay more for coffee that's ethical and eco-friendly, meta-analysis finds

Low-cost imaging technique shows how smartphone batteries could charge in minutes

Pleistocene sediment DNA from Denisova Cave

Quantum birds

Antibody therapy rescues mice from lethal nerve-muscle disease

Life in these star-systems could have spotted Earth

Cutaneous reactions after mRNA COVID-19 vaccines

Skin reactions after COVID-19 vaccination: Rare, uncommonly recur after second dose

[] For bay oysters, protection plus restoration creates healthiest reefs
Underwater videos reveal thriving reefs and provide scientists a quick, low-cost method to rate habitats