Date of Award

Fall 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Raymond E Grizzle

Second Advisor

Huntting W Howell

Third Advisor

David Burdick


Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and eelgrass (Zostera marina) are important ecosystem engineers in Great Bay, NH, however despite restoration efforts they have been in decline. In addition to loss of the resource, this degradation results in loss of associated ecosystem services such as habitat provision. It is possible that the recent increase in oyster farming in Great Bay could help mitigate habitat loss. My research objective was to quantify the biotic communities present in three natural habitats (eelgrass beds, oyster reefs and mudflats) in Great Bay NH and compare those to communities living on the type of gear (“racks and bags”) used for oyster farming. A total of 57 samples, each 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 m (=0.125 m3), were taken during June, August and October of 2014 and August 2015 from an eelgrass bed, oyster reef, mudflat, and farm gear. All algae, invertebrates, and fish contained within each sample were identified to the species level, counted and weighed. There was significantly greater total density (p<0.0001), total biomass (p<0.0001), and total taxonomic richness (p<0.0001), on the farm gear when compared to the natural habitats. This suggests that farm gear is a comparable habitat to adjacent natural habitats, and that oyster farms may be able to help mitigate habitat loss due to declining oyster reefs and eelgrass beds.