Multiple drivers of interannual oyster settlement and recruitment in the lower Chesapeake Bay

  • Brendan Turley
  • Kimberly Reece
  • Jian Shen
  • Jeong-Ho Lee
  • Ximing Guo
  • Jan McDowellEmail author
Research Article


Despite global investment in shellfish restoration activities, relatively little attention has been given to predicting optimal restoration sites and testing these expectations. We used a coupled biological-physical connectivity model as a guide to plant two distinct hatchery-spawned strains of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in the Lafayette River, Virginia during the summer of 2013 at two locations corresponding to virtual spawning locations within the connectivity model. We utilized single nucleotide polymorphism markers to test the model predictions by genotyping oysters recruited after planting two hatchery-spawned strains and examining interannual recruitment variability for two successive years. Two spat were identified as hybrids of one of the planted strains and resident oyster genotypes. We also observed a genetic influence from an oyster strain used previously for restoration. Differences in environmental conditions between the two years of monitored recruitment likely affected larval dispersal and survival, contributing to observed interannual differences in the newly recruiting cohorts. Oyster spat from 2013 were genetically more similar to resident adults sampled in the Lafayette River, while the 2014 spat exhibited genotypic frequencies more similar to adults from surrounding rivers. The winds during the spawning seasons differed between years providing conditions for retention in 2013 and mixing of water masses in 2014. We recommend that the monitoring of restoration activities should consider relevant environmental conditions and observe multiple years of recruitment to assess the genetic impacts of restoration plantings and variable reproductive success.


Citizen science Connectivity Crassostrea virginica Restoration Seascape genetics Single nucleotide polymorphism 



We would like to acknowledge Virginia Sea Grant for providing program development funds and Tidewater Oyster Growers Association for granting B. Turley a fellowship in support for this research. We would also like to thank the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) especially, Tommy Leggett, Jackie Shannon, CBF volunteers, and citizen scientist volunteers living on the Lafayette River that took care of spat collectors and provided dock space for this research. Also, Jane Dodge and students in her marine science class from Grafton High School in Yorktown, Virginia were instrumental in counting oyster spat. Thanks to Heidi Brightman for laboratory support at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), and Fluidigm® technical support. Thank you to B. Turley’s committee members Dr. Roger Mann and Dr. Mike Newman for their helpful suggestions. Thanks to Melissa Southworth and the crew of Virginia Marine Resources Commission vessel J. B. Baylor for their assistance in getting wild oyster samples and to Dr. Ryan Carnegie at VIMS for providing Rappahannock River oyster samples. This work constitutes the sum total of B. Turley’s Master of Science thesis. VIMS contribution number: 3829.


Virginia Sea Grant for provided program development funds. The Tidewater Oyster Growers Association gave B. Turley a fellowship in support  of this research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 78 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceWilliam & MaryGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.School of the Earth, Ocean and EnvironmentUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Haskin Shellfish Research LaboratoryRutgers UniversityPort NorrisUSA

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