HOLIDAY 2021: 63
reefs along shorelines. The shells become
home to oyster embryos, which will begin
to work their magic when they mature.
The University of Florida Whitney Lab in
St. Augustine is spearheading the clam
restoration work and has already placed
more than 10 million super clams into
Olivia Escandell, who heads up the oyster
project for the zoo, calls the bi-valves the
“liver in the river.” Most of the reef building
occurs from March to October, which
Escandell says offers “the best chance for
baby oysters to colonize the reef.”
The oyster work began in 2014, but
really picked up steam when Brevard’s
lagoon cleanup sales tax kicked in four
years ago. The oyster project qualifies for
funding, about $45,000 a year. The work
is governed by permits from the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection.
The oyster shells are donated by 20
restaurants in Brevard County and
Southeastern Seaproducts of Melbourne,
a commercial oyster shucking house.
The restaurants save shells from their
oyster meals, and volunteers pick them
up periodically. The process gave birth
to the name of the project, Shuck and
Share. About 27,000 pounds of shells are
collected every month.
The shells are quarantined for three
months to make sure that they are rid
of any organic matter, then they are
packaged in mesh bags and deposited
in the shallows along the lagoon
shoreline. The reef building is mostly
done by volunteers, civic organizations,
college clubs and business teams. If
interested in volunteering, go to www.
restoreourshores.org and click on the
So far the oyster reefs cover more than
1½ miles of the lagoon shoreline with
the ultimate goal of 20 miles, at which
point Escandell says they will have a
noticeable impact on water quality.
CLAM COLONIES GROW
The introduction of clams to the lagoon
started in 2018. The University of Florida
Whitney Lab found the only surviving
remnants of once widespread clam
colonies in the lagoon. Poor water quality
killed off most of the clam population,
leading the few survivors to be dubbed
Darwinian natural selection super clams
by project leader Todd Osborne, who is
known as the clam master.
“Reintroducing clams, and especially
those clams adapted to the way the
lagoon is now, should be a huge step
in the right direction for improving our
water quality,” Osborne says.
University researchers used the super
clams to breed huge colonies of clams
Reef building of the oyster beds
is mostly done by volunteers,
civic organizations, college
clubs and business teams.