More than 40 students at Riverview High School received training on how to build “baby” scallop collectors Nov. 12 for a local scallop restoration project being conducted by Mote Marine Laboratory and Sarasota Bay Watch.
Mote and Sarasota Bay Watch are working together to restore scallop populations to naturally sustainable levels in Sarasota Bay, where they are currently depleted. Project partners recently released about 4 million scallop spat, or larvae, near Longboat Key, and they plan to release more in the near future. The team will monitor how many young scallops are settling to grow using the new collectors made at Riverview.
The students, freshmen through seniors in Riverview’s Aquascience Program, built about 40 spat collectors and 40 juvenile-scallop collectors using mesh citrus bags, plastic hardware cloth, cable ties, plastic scouring pads, line, floats and concrete anchors. While the components sound simple, the collectors are very effective. The spat collectors are placed in the water when scallop spat are released, allowing the spat to settle on the mesh. The spat collectors will be retrieved after 3-4 days. The juvenile collectors, which allow settled spat to grow to a larger size, will be retrieved after 6-8 weeks so scientists can monitor the success of the scallops at the next phase of their life cycle.
On Nov. 12, project partners from Mote and Sarasota Bay Watch spoke to the students about scallop restoration and taught them how to build the collectors.
“The kids had a great opportunity to meet scientists they might not otherwise get to meet, to find out why the scallops aren’t doing so well and do something to help,” said Katrin Rudge, Aquascience Program Director at Riverview and sponsor of the school’s Marine Club, which allows students interested in marine science to support local ecosystems and meet area researchers and conservationists. “Bringing in experts from Mote and Sarasota Bay Watch really strengthened what they could learn about scallops.”
"Shellfish are considered to be keystone species that contribute to the overall diversity, health and stability of the bay ecosystem,” said Jim Culter, manager of the Benthic Ecology Program at Mote, who visited Riverview. “We believe that our cooperative program can successfully reintroduce scallops to this area where they were once abundant, especially because the seagrasses they need to grow have been doing well in Sarasota Bay.”
The scallop partnership project emphasizes involving community volunteers in research and monitoring aimed at restoring this important species to Sarasota Bay.
It is part of a global study on science and society led by Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN). The RIHN study is designed to find exemplary case studies of “residential research institutions” — those linked closely to their communities and positioned to exchange knowledge with locals — working closely with local grass-roots citizen groups to encourage bottom-up solutions to environmental problems. The Mote-Sarasota Bay Watch partnership is one of only 11 case studies around the world that are part of this international effort to find best approaches for the transfer of knowledge for sustainable use of ecosystems at local, regional, national and global levels.
Mote has shared its world-class research for decades through volunteer opportunities, education and outreach in communities in Sarasota and beyond, and Sarasota Bay Watch is an important local nonprofit formed by citizen volunteers working to improve our coastal ecosystems. It was natural for both groups to work with the volunteers at Riverview, partners said.
“It was great fun and wonderful support from the community, and the students in particular, in our effort to return scallops to the Bay,” said Larry Stults, President of Sarasota Bay Watch.