Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Norman J. Blake, Ph.D.


Crassostrea virginica, Epifaunal community development, Artificial reef establishment, Alternative substrate, Sediment burial


An artificial oyster reef constructed in Boca Ciega Bay, off of the War Veteran's Memorial Park, St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2005, was used to compare a mined shell material to the typical oyster shell substrate used in artificial reef projects as an alternative substrate and cultch material. Half of the reef's veneer was the fresh oyster shell and the other half was mined material. Experimental trays were deployed on top of the sediment along the leeward reef base and sampled quarterly to test the hypothesis that fresh shell is the preferential cultch material of the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica, promoting more oyster and epifaunal community development than the mined material. Monthly field observations along the reef face monitored the oyster community development on both substrates. The unanticipated influence of the reef's presence on the local current flows resulted in significant sediment loading on the reef.

The sediment inundated and smothered the experimental trays over the course of the study, thereby converting the trays from hard substrate to soft bottom habitats. Any influence the different substrates might have had on community development was overwhelmed by sediment burial. Monthly field observations revealed positive oyster community development on both substrates. Live oyster abundance was significantly dissimilar between June and December 2006 on the fresh shell compared to the mined material (R = 0.241, p = 0.001). Epifaunal abundance showed even greater dissimilarity over the same time period (R = 0.474, p< [or] = 0.001). Greater abundances of large oysters were found on the fresh shell substrate due to an instability and deterioration of the larger pieces of mined material. A low replicate sample size of n = 3 leaves results from between month and between quarter sampling analyses open to interpretation.

Though no definitive conclusions were drawn, the data from the community analyses provides useful information on the species inhabiting and utilizing oyster reefs in the Tampa Bay area.