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Saving oysters on Long Island

Kidsday reporters Matias Kalaitzis, left, and Pranav Vijayababu

Kidsday reporters Matias Kalaitzis, left, and Pranav Vijayababu with their oyster project at Bretton Woods Elementary School in Hauppauge. Photo Credit: Veronica Weeks

You might think of oysters as aquatic animals, but the process of raising them takes a lot of effort and patience. Our teacher Mrs. Veronica Weeks works with these fascinating creatures.

Oysters are bivalve mollusks that are good for the environment. They can filter pollution in the water; adult oysters can filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water a day. Mrs. Weeks is always trying to improve the water quality of the Great South Bay. We interviewed her to find out about the oysters.

How did you learn how to garden/farm oysters?

I attended a course through the Great South Bay Oyster Gardening Program. Sixto Portilla ran the class and taught us all about the oyster, and helped us to build equipment.

Did you have any help with oyster farming?

Yes, it is very strenuous work. You have to build the oyster cages, and I’m not very good with tools.

How did you get into oyster farming?

I enjoy working with keystone species because so many other organisms depend upon them for survival, and Long Island has always been known for our oysters.

Do you use any special materials while working?

We use special mesh baskets with floats attached that we attach together and anchor into the bay bottom. We also keep journals and record growth of the oyster, salinity and weather conditions, and we clean the baskets every couple weeks.

Where is the best place to find oysters in the bay?

When they are very young you want them close to the shore to maintain the baskets. During winter we bring them to a deeper part of the bay, and drop them to the bottom of the bay.

On what days do you work with these creatures?

During the summer I am monitoring them weekly, and then during the fall around every two to three weeks. I am hoping that the students in our class can come to see them in the spring.

Mrs. Weeks made this part of our school lessons this year after working on this project over the summer. We are going to help her tend to the oysters in the spring.

Tara Dungate and Veronica Weeks’ fifth-grade class, Bretton Woods Elementary School, Hauppauge

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