November 3, 2017. By Mary Kate Alger, Coastal Research Volunteers high school intern and senior at Next Charter School.
This story is part of our "Spotlight on our Collaborators" series, in which we introduce volunteers to some of the partners, researchers, and data users that we collaborate with to make our volunteer research happen.
Amanda Moeser is the Oyster Conservation Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. Over recent years, disease, pollution, and harvesting have affected the New Hampshire oyster population. Due to these environmental changes, over 90% of the oyster reefs in New Hampshire's Great Bay have been lost. Oysters are vital to their ecosystem, filtering water and serving as habitat for fish and invertebrates. For this reason, The Nature Conservancy works to restore oyster reefs in New Hampshire. Oyster restoration mainly entails using recycled shells to raise oysters and rebuild reefs in New Hampshire’s estuaries. Since 2009, the Nature Conservancy has restored more than 18 acres of oyster reef. The Coastal Research Volunteers collaborate with The Nature Conservancy by recruiting volunteers for the oyster restoration program, and helping out where we can! Here is Amanda Moeser with a more personal look at her work on oyster restoration.
How did you come to work for The Nature Conservancy?
I have previously worked with volunteers on community-based projects all over the country—planting trees, monitoring stream macroinvertebrates, surveying lakes for invasive species, and documenting native trout populations. In addition, I worked in aquaculture and recently started my own oyster farm in Casco Bay, so this job was the best combination of both worlds. Growing oysters for conservation helped me be a better oyster farmer and being an oyster farmer helped inform my oyster conservation work.
How long have you done oyster restoration?
I have been involved in oyster restoration for two years, but the Oyster Conservationist program has been running strong for 12 years in New Hampshire.
Do you do anything for The Nature Conservancy other than oyster restoration?
No, oyster restoration is a full time job! Oyster restoration includes a lot of things though, like site selection, permitting, data collection and analysis, volunteer organization, project reporting, along with lots of presentations and outreach.
What initially made you interested in your job?
New Hampshire may only have a tiny sliver of coastline, but the amount of science, research, and restoration happening in this area is astounding! This is one of the largest and most enthusiastic community-based oyster restoration projects in the country and the pace and scale of the restoration work is impressive (5 acres/year), so it was a really good opportunity to learn from UNH and TNC scientists engaged in these activities.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Hands down, my best part of my job is working the volunteers. From families and retirees to local businesses and schools, we have such an amazing and diverse team of 300+ people who collectively help raise, count, and measure the oysters we use to seed newly-constructed reefs in Great Bay. They make me laugh, get their families and neighbors involved, and are just really caring and fun people to be around on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for community members who want to learn more about eastern oysters or NH’s estuaries?
I think the best way to learn about the bay and estuaries is by getting out on the water. Great Bay is a beautiful place to go swimming, boating, hiking, sailing, and fishing and there are lots of places with public access. One of the best ways to learn about oysters is to come to a volunteer event to help count and measure the small oysters or adopt a cage of oysters during the summer. We are lucky to have so many all-ages, hands-on learning/volunteer opportunities through Nature Conservancy, Great Bay Discovery Center, New Hampshire Sea Grant, Piscataqua Regional Estuary Partnership, Coastal Conservation Association in such a small area. There is always something to do!