Team studies impact of oyster reefs on coastal morphology


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Rafael Tinoco
Rafael Tinoco

A team including CEE Associate Professor Rafael Tinoco will study the impact of oyster reefs on coastal morphology with the goal of informing restoration strategies, thanks to a four-year, $999,319 project funded by the U.S. Coastal Research Program.

Additional researchers include Assistant Professor Alberto Canestrelli of the University of Florida and Associate Professor William Nardin  of the University of Maryland. 

Oyster reefs form when oysters cluster on hard, submerged surfaces and fuse together as they grow. The reefs provide habitat for other ocean creatures and plants.

3D printed oyster reef
Scaled down 3D-printed models of oyster reef breakwaters for small-scale laboratory experiments. Covered with oysters (left) and bare blocks (right).

The project was developed with input and guidance from end-users in Florida and Maryland to connect ecologists, engineers and biologists in an interdisciplinary effort to study the reefs with a combination of physical experiments and numerical modeling. The overall goal is to provide end-users with clear guidelines on the effects of oyster reefs on coastal morphology.

The U.S. Coastal Research Program supports “academic proposals that align with or support federal research priorities in sediment transport processes to address critical research needs within the coastal community and advance the state of knowledge of coastal science.”

An extensive series of experiments is planned in the large wave flume at the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory in 2024, with a second experimental series to be conducted in 2025 at the Large-Scale Sediment Transport Facility at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg, Miss.


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This story was published October 11, 2023.