Determining Whether Native Eelgrass and Pacific Oysters Synergistically Enhance Their Environments

Researchers assess whether Zostera marina and Crassostrea gigas are potential partners in a changing ocean.

Principal Investigator

Carolyn Friedman, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Meg Chadsey, University of Washington, Washington Sea Grant

Colleen Burge, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Drew Harvell, Cornell university

Brady Blake, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


In the 1930s, eelgrass wasting disease (Labyrinthula zosterae) caused eelgrass losses of more than 90 percent on the Atlantic Coast, and the disease continues to affect beds along the West Coast today. In the Pacific Northwest, eelgrass and shellfish cultures often grow in the same place. This project focuses on a potential benefit of co-culture: filtration services of oysters to improve health of eelgrass beds and potentially reduce pathogen loads and increase local water quality. The project serve two purposes: It will assess the connections between marine disease, shellfish and marine habitats, with an eye to enhancing conservation and management of eelgrass beds. The researchers will analyze targeted DNA molecules to detect specific disease strains of varying virulence. This data will also provide the shellfish industry, tribes, resource managers and the public, with key diagnostic and genomic resources that will promote sustainable shellfish culture in Washington State.