(February 24, 2016) --

Oysters were the hot topic for February's Boardwalk Talks at The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Dr. Bill Walton held the crowd's attention February 3 as he discussed oyster farming in Alabama. Dr. Walton works at Auburn University's Shellfish Lab located at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. In recent years, he's been working on the development of oyster mariculture and working with oyster farmers in southern Alabama.

Dr. Walton explained during the talk that when farming oysters you have the ability to promise consistency.

"It's about working with what nature gives you to produce something you're proud of," Dr. Walton said after the talk.

Mid-month, Postdoc Associate Meagan Schrandt shared details of research focusing on how well the oyster can bounce back from a disturbance such as the oil spill. Dr. Sean Powers is the Prinicipal Investigator on the project.

"This work will help create a plan in the future," Schrandt explained.

The three-year research which began in the fall of 2015 includes oyster reef locations from Louisiana to Apalachicola, Florida. Data being collected from the field samples include the size of the oyster, the number of oysters and what's living with the oysters.

Another level of Schrandt's research will make use of Dr. Walton's oyster mariculture. Schrandt said Dr. Walton's team is working to harvest a large number of spat to be used in a controlled lab experiment.

Boardwalk Talks set for March include Anika Knight discussing bivalves and Haley Nicholson focusing on larvae/flow.

About the Boardwalk Talks

The Boardwalk Talks program at DISL's Estuarium is a forum for communicating recent research directly and interactively to the public. The format is an informal chat moderated by an educator who helps facilitate dialog among host and participants. Hosts are members of the Sea Lab's science community and have included researchers, graduate students, post docs, educators, aquarists, and technicians. Topics are wide-ranging and have included climate change, habitat restoration, hypoxia, sea level change, salt marshes, oyster reefs, sharks and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, among others. If weather permits, talks are held outside, and hosts are advised that posters and slides are not well-suited. However, visual or tactile aids such as shells, nets, specimens or maps are encouraged. These measures help promote the spirit of informality that is the goal of the program.

The Boardwalk Talks program has many benefits in addition to the obvious benefit of introducing the public to recent research in the Gulf of Mexico. Foremost, it draws attention to the Gulf of Mexico region, enhancing environmental literacy. Additionally, it gives the public opportunities, not found in a lecture setting, for personal exchange with individuals who are working in the field of science and who are knowledgeable about topics of interest. For the hosts, these talks provide an on-campus, established framework that makes their participation easy and efficient. It gives hosts an opportunity to translate science for the general public, sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experience while fulfilling some broader impacts requirements. For less-experienced hosts such as graduate students and post-docs, the program offers a relaxed, low-pressure means to gain experience communicating with the public. Lastly, the Boardwalk Talks program provides an opportunity to reach out to those who support the operations of the lab: the taxpaying public, docents, staff, and the local community.