Thanks to a generous grant from Cove Point Natural Heritage Trust, the Association contracted five summer interns to assist with the baseline assessment and ongoing documentation of the oyster reef project. The Association was able to leverage Cove Point grant funding with credit-based summer study programming through formal partnerships with the Great Mills High School STEM Academy and the Forrest Career & Technology Center Natural Resources Management Program. Three STEM interns (seniors) and one Tech Center graduate worked with returning STEM graduate, Ken Gill, to complete the restoration project and develope a comprehensive set of data from which future assessments can be based.

Emma Evans (Tech Center) led the team when hard work was in order. Meghan Webster, Micheal Maragh, and Virginia Detrick(STEM) excelled at data collection and surveys conducted with Gill doing most of the underwater work. In addition, each of the STEM interns focused on an aspect of the assessment making it the topic of their summer STEM-related credit project.

“Ken kept it all going smoothly and supervised the team,” said Bob Lewis (Association’s Executive Director). “Emma basically ran the nursery and kept product moving through the setting tank.”

Meanwhile Detrick kept a log of weekly water quality readings and Maragh tested the suitability of recycled concrete of various age for the setting of oyster larvae. Webster documented the colonization of the reefs. She used fauna collector’s made from recycled 6-inch PVC pipe (see photo below).

“I wanted to determine whether the deeper parts of the reef were as vibrant as the tops of the reefs where oxygen levels are higher,” commented Webster in a submitted brief about the project.

“We’re still collecting data and working through it so we have no scientific results to report, said Lewis. “But it’s exciting work since the reefs are lively and covered in healthy oysters. We have nothing but good news so far.”

The natural oyster strike in the river this summer appears to be exceptionally high again, after an average summer in 2013 and a bonaza year in 2012. Oysters are coming back strong in the St. Mary’s River.