Nick Ray (PhD Candidate) and Gretchen McCarthy (Senior) from the Boston University Marine Program (BUMP) came to visit our FlowCam lab in Scarborough this week. Nick Ray had used a FlowCam in 2016 in Dr. Robinson Fulweiler's lab when he was a recipient of our Student Equipment Grant. Gretchen has worked in this lab since she was a freshman. She's planning to begin graduate school next year and will focus her studies on fisheries and aquaculture.
Gretchen's senior thesis work investigates the interactions between oysters, nutrients, and phytoplankton community structure. Building upon Nick's initial research, Gretchen's paper is titled: Oysters, nutrient regeneration, and alternative phytoplankton community states. In this paper she explores the role oysters play in regulating nutrient availability in coastal ecosystems. By excreting nutrients and moving organic material (via biodeposits) to the benthos, oysters can alter the sediment nutrient regeneration rates.
Of particular interest is how these activities likely change the ratio of nitrogen to silica in coastal ecosystems. And, how the oyster diet (diatom-rich or dinoflagellate-rich) influences rates of nutrient regeneration. A diet rich in diatoms likely favors low nitrogen:silica, while one rich in dinoflagellates likely favors high nitrogen:silica.
Gretchen will be presenting her work at the National Shellfisheries Association Meeting in Baltimore this spring. Stay tuned to read her full research paper when it's published later this year. This work is funded in part by Rhode Island Sea Grant and the BU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.