Back Home
Oyster Project
completed summer of 2001


I designed this project around the theory that oysters could filter out and munch up E. coli as part of their normal feeding process. If this proves true - we could start introducing rafts of oysters into the local Morro Bay Estuary, where bacterial contamination has been identified as a serious issue that does pose health risks. The rafts could be moved to areas of high bacterial contamination (such as the creek mouths) and the oysters would chow down.

Matt Oliver, a biology student at Cal Poly, was the first to come with this idea. He wrote a proposal which called for a pilot study to test the concept. The Morro Bay National Estuary Program chose to include Matt's proposal as an Action Plan in their Coastal Commission Management Plan.

Meanwhile, I was already planning a small scale study, with the science fair in mind, to see if oyster did really filter significant amounts of harmful bacteria. In corresponding with the Morro Bay National Estuary Program about borrowing some equipment, I was told that I was eligible for a "Mini-Grant" because my project related to an action plan. I turned in an application proposing an expanded version of my project. Although the mini-grants, so I was told, are aimed at graduate students and non-profit organizations; out of 9 applicants, I was one of the 6 chosen. Pretty cool.   :-)

In the spring of 2001 I wrote a paper on the results to-date and submitted it to the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. They accepted my paper and asked me to present my findings at the symposium in Irvine. From the 70+ people presented, I was one of 5 who made it through the two levels of judging to be selected to represent the California/Nevada region at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (all expenses paid trip to Orlando Florida). I presented the results again at the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Currents Symposium (I was the only high school student), and won an award for best poster presentation. In May, I took my poster up to the State Science Fair and won 2nd place in the zoology division and was awarded the annual John Isaac's Scholarship from the California Sea Grant group.

Many thanks to the following individuals, organizations and corporations:
John Maley at Idexx Laboratories for the more-than-generous donationions and support. Go to for more info on their products.
Roger Philips and his staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their assistance and instruction on developing methods, as well as for their gracious equipment loans and technical support
Faylla Chapman at Morro Bay High School for her technical support, trouble shooting assistance, and bacteria cultures

The Paper
The Procedure
The Grant Application (Outlines the entire project)

The oyster (experimental) tank. Both tanks were constructed out of sliced semi-tractor-trailer truck tires with upside down flower pots stuck up through their middles. Interior surfaces were covered with fiber glass to prevent toxic tire chemicals from seeping into the water.
The control tank
An average oyster specimen
A close look at the oysters in the tank. Ones with their shells slightly open are actively filtering.
Taking a water sample...
A small amount of each sample must be added to a bottle of 100 ml of sterile fresh water. A chemical is mixed in, and then the contents is poured into a tray.
The trays are sealed using a device that distributes the water evenly into each well of the tray and then heat seals each well closed.
All trays are put into the incubator. After 18 hours, certain wells in the tray will turn yellow. The number of yellow wells is plugged into a chart that gives actual concentrations
Back to my main Web Site