Ocean Acidification and Emerging Diseases in the Pacific Northwest

PI: Steve Roberts, Carolyn Friedman


Research Institution:         University of Washington

PI First name, Last name:  Steve Roberts, Carolyn Friedman

Phone:      206-866-5141

Email:       sr320@uw.edu

Project website link:        http://safsoa.wordpress.com/



Shellfish are important species for our growing marine shellfish aquaculture industry and play critical roles in our marine ecosystems, an environment that is increasingly threatened by environmental change. In the Pacific Northwest the environment has changed in a manner that has contributed to increase mortality of bivalve larvae in hatcheries and also appears to have decreased natural recruitment.  Several local shellfish hatcheries, upon which nearly the entire bivalve culture industry relies, have experienced severe losses over the past few years.  Several factors have been attributed to this problem including temperature, ocean acidification, and re-emerging pathogens. Given the large-scale environmental change observed in our marine ecosystems and the relationship of host stress response and pathogen virulence with environmental conditions, it is critical to examine the problems facing bivalve larvae from a regional perspective by systematically assessing how the environment influences the spread of disease and the ability of oysters to effectively respond to stress. The goal of this proposal is to characterize the factors that threaten the aquaculture industry and wild shellfish. The primary approaches include a series of laboratory experiments and environmental sampling. This research effort has been developed to test the following hypothesis: Environmental stressors (elevated temperature and reduced pH) will enhance disease expression and reduce larval bivalve survival. More specifically we will test the impact of single and multiple biotic and abiotic stressors on larval bivalves with a focus on the most economically important regional species, the Pacific oyster.  In order to assess the impact of biotic and abiotic environmental factors on bivalve health, we will also assess the abundance of oysters and other larvae in the wild in relation to water quality parameters. The specific research objectives are to: 1) Characterize the interrelationship of altered environmental conditions, pathogen, and oyster response under controlled conditions and 2) Identify factors in Pacific Northwest hatcheries and in the wild that are associated with poor oyster larvae survival.  Upon completion of this research we will have a better understanding of how environmental change will impact our marine ecosystem. This information will allow us to better predict mortality events, improve hatchery practices, manage wild populations, and develop improved broodstock. Furthermore, marine bivalves are an excellent sentinel species for environmental perturbation and the novel bio-monitoring procedures developed in this project could easily be transferred to other species and systems.



oyster, Vibrio tubiashii, transcriptomics, disease, temperature, pathogen, aquaculture, larvae


FUNDING AGENCY:      NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program