The Aquarino

Background

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

  • Watershed – area of land that drains into a body of water
  • Spans 64,000 square miles which is the the largest on the Atlantic seaboard
  • Includes parts of six states: MD, VA, PA, NY, WV, DE and all of Washington DC
  • Home to a large variety of plants and animals including birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles

Role of Oysters in Chesapeake Bay

  • For our project we are going to focus on the role of oysters in the bay
  • Important filter feeders – feed by pumping water through their gills
  • Traps nutrients as food but also sediments and chemical contaminants such as nitrates in water

Significance of Oysters

  • Help keep the water clean for bay grasses and other aquatic life such as
  • One oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water in a day
  • Oysters create reefs that species such as sponges, sea squirts, crabs, and fishes rely on

The Problem

  • Historic over harvesting
    • Harvesting since 1800s
    • Dredges clear out reefs
  • Disease – parasites infect oysters and cause slow growth/death
  • Runoff
    • Excess nutrients fuel algal blooms which create low oxygen areas called “dead-zones,” which suffocate oysters/other aquatic life
  • Currently at < 1% of historic population levels

Purpose

Fitting the Aquarino into the Bigger Picture

  • Our project is an environmental awareness project
  • Our goals are to show:
    • The significance of oysters
    • What may seem like a small impact is actually a big one because each oyster has such a high capability of filtration
    • In general that every organism in the Bay is significant to the ecosystem

How the Aquarino is Different

  • Bridging the gap between environmentalism and technology
  • Incorporating a human element into what would be a natural process by itself
  • Similar projects have tanks side by side
    • First tank has dirty water
    • Second tank has oysters in the dirty water – shows the filtration over time
  • Our project integrates these environments because that more accurately reflects how it is in nature
    • Environments aren’t separate, they go hand in hand and influence each other

Design

Overall Setup

  • Two tank setup
    • One with oysters and one without
  • Tubes connect the tanks together
  • A pump connected to the tubes controls the water flow between the tanks
  • The pump is connected to an Arduino that allows us to remotely control the pump itself
  • We control the water flow between the tanks with the Arduinosetup

Results

Current Status

  • We were able to get the system setup, including the website to remotely control the pump
  • Set up an “ideal” environment for the Oysters
    • Provided food, nitrifying bacteria (gets rid of Oyster waste), and Oyster shell base
  • However, Oysters were not able to adapt to environment and died
  • Could not actually execute experiment because Oysters did not incubate successfully

Conclusion

Lessons Learned

  • Need to factor in other relationships Oysters have with other aquatic life in the ecosystem
  • Oysters are even more delicate than we thought
    • Even in a controlled environment with all the “ideal” environment, Oysters still did not live
  • Oysters are impactyed by even the smallest changes in the environment – more reasons to be aware of what is dumped into the Chesapeake Bay

Importance of Project

  • Oysters play an important role in the ecological balance
    • Remove nitrates from the water
  • Humans have a responsibility to their environment: our choices have an impact
  • Technology can play a huge role in how we interact with our environment
    • Can provide unique solutions to current ecological solutions

Further Action

Future Research Goals

  • Talk to Oyster Experts on how to properly raise Oysters
  • Research what other environmental relationships are important to Oysters
  • Find a more suitable habitat for the Oysters
  • Include other aquatic life

Take Initiative

  • Be mindful of how your trash may affect the Chesapeake Bay, especially with household chemicals
    • This adds to runoff pollution
  • Donate to Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Advocate for Chesapeake Bay issues- talk to your legislators
  • Recycle oyster shells to be used for building new oyster reefs
  • If you have access to a pier or dock you can raise oyster larvae at home through various oyster gardening programs
  • Help spread awareness!


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