I spent 6 weeks living and working at the NSW DPI fisheries research centre. Here are a few photos of the place.
Mike Dove showing me the “flats”, aka Ostrea angasi, that I would soon torture.
Kyle Johnston drove me out to their oyster lease for some more flats. Growers use off-bottom methods to avoid mud worm infection (Polydora!), and “overcatch” (fouling by barnacles, wild oysters spat, etc.). Here you see their system of floating cages attached to lines.
The first week or so was soooooo rainy- downpour!
My project at Port Stephens was simple – see if I could get the flat oysters to spit out larvae, using Olympia oyster methods developed by PSRF, and which I have used in my previous experiments. Flats and Olys are in the same genus (Ostrea), and have similar reproductive strategies. They both are hermaphroditic, and they brood larvae. However, don’t quite know what triggers flat oysters to make or release gametes.
Temperature is a common trigger for other bivalves, and it works for Olys. So, for 5 weeks I held my flat oysters in 3 temperature (18C, 21C, 24C) with plenty of food. My daily tasks includes feeding, cleaning, and checking for larvae.
These rolling garbage cans (or “bins”) make for good oyster tanks:
I drained tanks every other day over a 100um screen to check for larvae (they are small, ~150um)
I sampled oysters three times (week 0, 3 & 5) to look at gonad, and to save tissue for gene expression.
Me in my standard sampling pose.
Here’s one of my trusty helpers, Erica. She is a “uni” student from Sydney working on growing algae with fancy new LED lights, and she stayed in the bunk house with me for a few weeks. She brought movies, and gave me a love for basic action and super hero flicks.
Not pictured but who was critical:
- Pandora- a fellow Iowan (she’s from Fairfield!) and shellfish researcher who was living in Port Stephens at the time. She volunteered with me for a while day! We also played trivia and generally bonded over our identical life trajectories.
- Wally- Mollusc team, Angler. He shucked hundreds of oysters for me and made the best fish and chips. Also, I jinxed him by asking if he’d ever cut his hand while shucking an oyster. He said yes, then immediately poked a hole in his hand, but was okay (after a hospital visit).
- Brandt- Mollusc team, fellow coffee snob and homeowner. The go-to guy for all my project needs, and very supportive during my stay. He also co-owns a USA-themed sweets shop! Tended my oysters while I went to Sydney.
- Kyle- Mollusc team, stoic, spear-fisherman. He arranged project supplies and stepped in to help wherever needed.
- Aiden- Mollusc team, from Cairns. Roomy in the bunk house. We shared a love for Australia Ninja Warrior, and watched all the Taken movies together.
- Mike- Mollusc team, surfer, Mr nice guy. Critical in project design, practical application, and really was a pleasure to work with. He brought me recreational supplies (bike, paddle board).
- Wayne- Mollusc team, mountain biker, the brains. So much knowledge packed into one person. My primary host and advisor- critical in every step of my stay. Fed Jake & I lamb and Australian Shiraz. Showed me my all-time favorite running trail!
- Steve- Mollusc team, flat oyster guru, safety officer. Questions about flat oysters? Ask Steve.
Sadly I completely forgot to take photos of/with most these fine folks (huge mistake!). I also met other uni students living in the bunk house. Listing them here for my memory: Blake, Emily, Paco
In the end, I got larvae from 4-5 oysters at 24C, 1 oyster at 21C, and none from 18C, suggesting that high temperature induced/accelerates reproduction. I will look at gonad tissue more closely soon.
Oyster larvae are cute, here’s a video to prove it: