Beyond Academic: Graduate Research Supports Oyster Management in Florida
Carrie Schuman grew up within driving distance of several New England reserves, but she didn’t get a chance to appreciate how special they were until she conducted her dissertation research at Florida’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Reserve.
“Collaborating with a NERR is a wonderful experience,” she says. “Now that I have opportunity to work within one, I appreciate the nationwide effort the whole NERR system entails. The quality data, staff, and resources have provided me with the invaluable opportunity to pursue interesting and impactful research.”
An ecology PhD student from the University of Florida, Carrie is interested in the oyster—a high value, keystone species that provides myriad ecosystem services in the estuaries of Northeast Florida. Her research is focused on better understanding how the oyster’s capacity for filter feeding relates to water quality. She is also exploring the use of, and perceptions around, oysters by three groups; commercial oystermen, recreational oystermen, and recreational fishermen who target finfish near oyster reefs. Her goal is to understand what makes a desirable reef, how reefs are being utilized spatially and temporally, and how these groups think about other benefits of oysters.
Carrie’s work supports the goals of the Oyster and Water Quality Task Force of the Guana, Tolomato, and Matanzas Rivers. This voluntary group of agency, academic, and community stakeholders has a collective goal of understanding and addressing local shellfish and related water quality issues so they can improve management of oyster habitat and estuary health. Reaching this goal depends on access to local research—a need that has made the NERRS Graduate Research Fellowship a critical resource for its ability to support researchers who, like Carrie, who are focused on local management issues.