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Researchers continuing work to improve the New River

Researchers at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences are continuing to work with the City of Jacksonville and other organizations on efforts to clean up the New Ri
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 7:40 PM EDT
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Researchers at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences are continuing to work with the City of Jacksonville and other organizations on efforts to clean up the New River.

New River Oyster Highway
New River Oyster Highway(witn)

Their work involves monitoring 6 oyster beds that were put in parts of the river in 2019. They are also adding 6 new oyster beds this summer.

Oysters are considered to be an integral part of an estuary and can help researchers better understand the overall health of a coastal body of water.

“They naturally live in these aggregations called reefs or beds and they feed by filtering the water, they filter everything out of it looking for algae so they are a really great benefit for the water quality,” said Jonathan Lucas.

Jonathan Lucas is a grad student at UNC and is one of the researchers helping to monitor how these oysters are doing.

“We look at oyster densities so the number of oysters per square meter on these half-acre reefs sites and we count those monthly and another method we look at is recruitment which means are these oysters reproducing young that can replenish the population,” said Lucas.

Not only do oyster reefs provide areas for food and security for other creatures they can also greatly improve water quality. A mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

That’s important to bodies of water like the New River which was in dire condition just 20 years ago due to pollution.

UNC is also looking into the viability of the oysters that were placed in the river, some of the oyster bed sites are further up the river than oysters are typically seen.

“We look at recruitment or are these oysters that we have here reproducing young which can replenish the population over time,” said Lucas.

This is a long term project that will continue for several years.

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