To Breed An Oyster

12:08 minutes

oyster farm and dock going out to shallow ocean inlet
Oysters were raised at this medium salinity site on long lines in Grand Isle for two years before being cross-bred with oysters raised at a low salinity site at the Louisiana University Marine Consortium in Chauvin as part of this study. Credit: Morgan Kelly, LSU

In the ocean, climate change involves more than just warming temperatures. Water levels are shifting, and ocean chemistry is changing.  Changes to ocean salinity caused by shifting amounts of freshwater could have big effects on the health of oysters, who need a certain range of saltiness in the water to be happy.  

As part of her doctoral work at Louisiana State University, researcher Joanna Griffiths bred hundreds of families of oysters, looking for clues to what makes an oyster more able to endure salinity changes. She found that there is a genetic component to an oyster’s salinity resilience. 

two buckets of oysters. on the left the oysters are larger and darker color
The oysters (on left) raised in Grand Isle where the water was saltier grew about 40% larger than the oysters (on right) raised in low salinity in Chauvin. Credit: Kevin M. Johnson
a woman leans over and smiles next to lap equipment imaged from above
Joanna Griffiths meticulously cross-bred oysters from the medium salinity site in Grand Isle and the low salinity site in Chauvin and produced 240 oyster families. Credit: Joanna S. Griffiths

Griffiths joins SciFri’s Charles Bergquist to talk about the work, and the challenges of conducting a laboratory oyster breeding program—in which it’s difficult convince an oyster that it’s time for romance, and often even hard to discern the sex of the oysters involved.

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Segment Guests

Joanna Griffiths

Joanna Griffiths is a postdoctoral student at the University of California, Davis in Davis, California.

Segment Transcript

The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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