Oysters- A Chesapeake Bay Staple

Raw oysters served on the half shell. ©Vivian Hollingsworth/VAS
Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is constantly striving to educate and expose it’s community members to the impacts they have on the environment. The Eastern Shore has historically been a waterman based community. Oysters and crabs are a tradition of the Eastern Shore. However, with climate change continuously worsening every year, the livelihood of our waterman is threatened. Aquaculture has gained massive popularity as a sustainable and effective way to grow and harvest shellfish throughout the world.
The demand for oysters is continually increasing, yet the supply of natural oysters is diminishing. Aquaculture has become the ideal model of providing the market with a constant supply while also preserving the natural oyster populations. Only 1% of the oysters left in the Chesapeake Bay are the native species. Oysters play a very important role in our waterways. One oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water per day, helping to keep our Bay clean. They also provide habitat for many different aquatic animal and plant species. 
Through oyster gardening classes and our TIGO program, Phillips Wharf has been educating our community about growing and preserving oysters. Our programs offer community members and homeowners a way to contribute to oyster populations and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Phillips Wharf is excited to announce a new aquaculture education program targeted to middle and high school aged students. This program is intended to educate the next generation of watermen on aquaculture practices as well as inform students the importance of oysters in the Bay and it's fishery.
Our new aquaculture education program can be in a classroom setting or a field trip at PWEC (once COVID restrictions allow)!  This new program is a spin off of our very popular field trip program Seed to Table. We have built state of the art, portable downwellers that offer a hands on experience inside the classroom. Students will learn about the biological needs of oysters during each of its life stages. They will gain hands on experience running through an oyster set and all equipment used to grow our oysters from larvae to market size. This is a great program to help students understand concepts like salinity, turbidity, biological processes and how oysters benefit their ecosystem through filtration.
We look forward to being able to offer this program so that we have yet another outlet to teach and engage with students about the Chesapeake Bay.

________             Toria Rico                          

Phillips Wharf Education Coordinator- Full-time Americorps Member

Toria hails from California.  She holds a BS in Environmental Science from University of Redlands.  She is energetic and full of good ideas.  The idea of building downwellers and taking the field trip to the classroom was her idea and she worked hard to bring it to life.  Toria has worked and experienced many branches within the Environmental Science field.