Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. John Carroll



Oysters are an economically and ecologically important shellfish species found along most coastlines. Along the Georgia coastline, oysters form extensive reefs, and are economically important as a food source. In addition, oysters perform a vital role in maintaining water quality due to their high filtration capacity in coastal waters. Oyster reefs form solid, 3-D substrate that prevent coastline erosion and provide structure for numerous other coastal species to grow, including many commercially and recreationally important species. Water quality factors, such as temperature and salinity, can influence oyster density, condition, and growth, and ultimately affect the services the reefs provide to the estuary. In this study, we examined whether oyster density, size, and condition were different at sites that have different water quality. Oysters were collected within replicate 20x20cm quadrats from three locations along Georgia’s coast: Cabretta Creek and Hunt Dock on Sapelo Island, and in front of the SKIO hatchery bulkhead. Oysters were returned to the lab where they cleaned, measured and weighed, and then dissected for condition index. Water quality data collected from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Wide Monitoring Program stations were used for water quality. Oyster size and condition were then compared to water quality to identify which location has the “healthiest” oysters, and ascertain which water quality factors might play a role.