Billion Oyster Project (BOP) is an effort to restore a sustainable oyster population and to foster awareness, affinity, and understanding of the Harbor by engaging New Yorkers directly in the work of restoring one billion oysters.
The hands-on science of reef construction and monitoring is executed through in-school restoration based STEM learning opportunities, community science and research, restaurant shell collection and volunteer programs.
Students at New York Harbor School have been growing and restoring oysters in New York Harbor for the last seven years. They have learned to SCUBA dive safely, raise oyster larvae, operate and maintain vessels, build and operate commercial-scaled oyster nurseries, design underwater monitoring equipment and conduct long-term authentic research projects all in the murky, contaminated, fast-moving waters of one of the busiest ports in the country. Together and with the help of many partners, these students have restored over twenty-five million oysters. Harbor School students now collaborate with over seventy middle and high schools throughout all five boroughs. At these schools, BOP works with teachers to provide authentic, place-based science and math lessons taught through the lens of oyster restoration. Each year, thousands of students participate in these learning opportunities and together have produced a rich and authentic data set describing oyster growth and survival, water quality, presence and diversity of other organisms at over 30 sites. These data help direct future restoration work.
Oyster reefs once covered more than 220,000 acres of the Hudson River estuary. They provided valuable ecosystem services to the region by filtering water, providing habitat for other marine species and attenuating wave energy. Today, oysters are functionally extinct in the Harbor as a result of over-harvesting, dredging, and pollution. The absence of oysters has impaired our estuary’s ability to clean the water and absorb excess nitrogen; the loss of reefs has reduced protective habitat, destabilized the sea floor and left our shoreline vulnerable to destructive wave action.
Billion Oyster Project aims to reverse these effects by bringing oysters and their reef habitat back to New York Harbor. Restoring oysters and reefs will, over time, restore the local marine ecosystem’s natural mechanisms for maintaining itself, resulting in cleaner water and greater biodiversity.
Moreover, restoration without education is temporary, engaging students and the general public in this work will build a culture of stewardship and a more robust understanding and appreciation of the Harbor for future generations.
Vong Wong, 2017
Zagat Documentaries, 2017
PBS Newshour, 2017
Learn more about BOP and the work we're doing alongside New Yorkers of all ages!
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