While many may not think much of oysters, they play a significant role as filter feeders. Some studies have shown that an individual oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, removing pollutants from the water. As we continue to realize how sick our oceans and estuaries are, the presence of oysters becomes a great value to us and other species.
Ostrea lurida, or the Olympia oyster, was once found throughout the Pacific coast of North America. However, due to pollution and over-harvesting, their range and population has declined. It is the only oyster native to our west coast.
One day we went out with Chris in search of them in Morro Bay and we found them! As we searched for oysters, we also found many other organisms, such as crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, anemones, and more. Nearby, sea otters could be seen floating on their backs while sea gulls searched for food. There is something very exciting about picking up rocks and seeing a whole other world living underneath. Days like this remind me of why I want to do this work, to continue to learn and preserve these unique species cohabitating this planet with us.
Weeks later, we returned, this time with a data sheet, ready to actually get a count of how many oysters we were finding in this area. I thoroughly enjoyed recording data as well as looking for the oysters on the rocks, once again in awe of all that lives beneath these rocks. I’ve always enjoyed field work and it’s rewarding to be working on something that could potentially help bring more awareness to O. lurida and hopefully lead to a full-on restoration project.