Herpes Field Work 2015: to infect or not infect?


To infect or to not infect?…that is the question for this summer’s field work in Tomales Bay.

The team heads out early to the tidal flats of Tomales Bay where our oysters have been planted.

We’ve set up camp at Bodega Marine Lab and for the last two months the team has been going strong (including the juvenile oysters, A.K.A. “seed”). We’ve been rearing seed so that they are of desired size and then deploying them out in the bay where oyster companies grow their stocks. These companies have felt the hardship of oyster herpesvirus outbreak that has occurred each summer for the last 10+ years.

Oyster BagsOyster Farm Rows

Make no mistake about it…our research is not work for the faint-of-heart. It requires daily efforts, weekly cleanings, and early mornings out on the tidal flats, but it’s all in the name of science and to afford a better understanding of how this virus impacts oysters – something both we and the oyster farmers in this area would like to know more about, so that they can avoid the mass die-offs seen in previous years and strategically plan for future outbreaks. We’ve been steadily working towards this moment for the last 6 months. Prior to our field work we had to spawn the oysters, create specific genetic crosses, and rear the seed at the NOAA K. Chew Center in Manchester, WA (800 mi away to ensure no chance of early infection). As temperatures rise the probability of a viral explosion increases, so we keep deploying new seed and assessing the previously deployed oysters for mortality. With bated breath we wait for the virus to infect our oysters. Then we can begin our next step in the lab…determining the physiological impact the herpesvirus has on our beautiful bivalve friends.

Adult Oysters

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