Role of breeding strategy and geographic history in Eastern oyster strains
Spring 2022 Graduate Student Award in Social & Biological Determinants of Health
Globally, aquaculture is responsible for nearly half of all seafood production. In North Carolina, oyster aquaculture is growing rapidly and providing job stability for many fishers. To keep up with demand, hatcheries are focusing on developing oysters that grow faster or are less susceptible to disease. But the consequences of this selective pressure on the population’s genetic diversity are unknown, and the limited information on performance of different oyster strains limits the ability of growers to intentionally choose stocks. Oyster aquaculture is one of the most sustainable resources for seafood and contributes water quality filtration which would otherwise be lost due to loss of natural oyster beds, and hatchery oysters are used increasingly for restoration projects across the East Coast. Thus, ensuring that oysters produced by hatcheries are healthy and ideally suited to the environment they will be grown in is beneficial, and needed, to economic and ecological needs alike. Here, I propose to use populations of oysters from NC which have been raised in hatcheries for multiple generations to test whether there is a genetic basis to growth and mortality differences between strains. The findings from this can be used to contribute towards producing individuals well-adapted to the environment they are grown in for aquaculture and restoration alike.
Laura is a PhD candidate in the Schultz lab at the Duke University Marine Lab. Her research focuses on community response to environmental change from genetic and behavioral perspectives.