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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Sturbridge resident researches effects of
shellfish aquaculture on Narragansett Bay

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 12, 2000 -- Sturbridge, Mass., resident Monique Perron, a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, spent her summer vacation assessing the value of shellfish aquaculture on water quality.

Working with URI Fisheries Professor Michael Rice and graduate student Jennifer Mugg, Perron's goal was to demonstrate the beneficial qualities of cultivated oysters in Narragansett Bay. "Our objective was to prove that aquaculture bivalves enhance the water quality of Narragansett Bay," Perron said.

"Urban and coastal developments have been producing excessive nitrogen levels in the bay, steadily damaging the water quality," Perron said. Counteracting this process, natural populations of bivalves have been known to recycle and remove nutrients, thereby improving water quality. However, the effects of aquaculture raised bivalves demand more research.

This required Perron to conduct thorough data collection. The oysters for her research were grown in six mesocosms (water tanks) that simulate the environmental conditions of the bay.

Her data sampling included testing each mesocosm for water flow rates and traces of ammonia, nitrate, chlorophyll, and sediment carbon. Other data collection involved the basic water quality testing of salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. Lastly, Perron monitored the growth rates of each oyster weekly. "A tiresome process because there were about 600 of them," Perron said.

During the study, Perron learned many important skills. "I learned various aspects of the job that involved tasks such as making solutions for testing, conducting methods of testing, and fixing equipment," Perron said.

Overall, Perron stated that she enjoyed her learning experience and the people she worked with. "The graduate student that I work with is now a friend," Perron said. "It's obviously much easier to work and learn from someone you know and understand. She taught me a lot about the job."

Perron's research was sponsored by the URI Coastal Fellowship Program, a unique program designed to involve undergraduate students in addressing current environmental problems, and funded by URI Cooperative Extension. Now in its fifth year, the Coastal Fellowship Program teams students with URI faculty, research staff and graduate students to help undergraduates gain skills that will ensure their future success.

"The program has helped me gain valuable experience for my future in marine biology, and I intend to participate in more research before I graduate in May 2003," Perron said. "I hope my current study confirms that aquaculture oysters are indeed beneficial to water quality and, at the very least, provides data for continuing research."

For Information: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892, Keith Marshall 401-874-2116


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