Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Broad and Hard Look at Oysters in the Sound

boats Vince Breslin, a professor of science education and environmental studies at Southern Connecticut State's Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, has gotten a $270,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study oysters in Long Island Sound with a host of other educational institutions. Here's the nut graf from a New Haven Register story about it:

While scientists have studied various aspects of the Sound and its bivalve population piecemeal, the current study is intended to provide an all-inclusive record of currents, salinity, pollution, invasive species, sediment, temperature, micro-organism populations and other factors to be a base for future studies, Breslin said.

Breslin has drawn colleagues from SCSU, Central Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University, Wesleyan University and the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.

The Sound School, in New Haven, is involved too.

Vince told me he's particularly excited because the grant will let them buy a DMA 80 direct mercury analyzer and a sediment grain-size analyzer. Here's what the Register says about that:

Breslin said he has used grant money to acquire a $40,000 instrument that can quickly measure mercury levels in oyster tissue. Older methods require time-consuming and complicated chemistry.

Breslin and colleagues also purchased a sediment grain-size analyzer. The old way of measuring grain sizes in a sample of sediment was to sift the material through a series of sieves. The process is slow. The new instrument uses a laser beam and optics to determine the percentages of different sized grains in a sample.

Ultimately, anyone researching oysters will be able to check dozens of sample points in the Sound, using a computer. Each sample site will reveal a wealth of information. The data also will be categorized and cross-linked in a number of ways to suit the different disciplines that are apt to employ the information.

(The photo is of oyster sloops on the Sound, courtesy of the Rowayton Historical Society.)



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