Ocean Royalty: Making Oyster Castles

By: Kayla Smith | Contributing Writer

To some, oysters come to mind as food and not as a foundation for a marine ecosystem. On Saturday, Feb. 22, Dr. Sprinkle and her students from the Marine Science Student Association and the Biology Student Association volunteered to assist Dr. Dell Champs from Murphy High School build four Oyster Castles. Students arrived on Bayfront Road early that morning to get started. 

Dr. Champs reached out to Dr. Amy Sprinkle, a Marine Science Instructor at South, for any volunteers sometime after receiving a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant only allowed four to five castles as part of a living shoreline project. Almost 30 students showed up to complete the castles. 

Brianna Watters, a reporter for the Biology Student Association and an event volunteer, was asked why she volunteered in the project. 

“Any project that involves the health of our ecosystem, getting out there and promoting Biology Student Association, and promoting South’s involvement in helping the health of our natural community and not just our social community is very very important to me,” Watters said.

Students created a human assembly line and passed 30-pound cinder blocks down to the shoreline. The low tide allowed them to move the structures further away from the beach. Each structure had four layers. The layers would allow oysters to attach themselves in the spaces between them. 

Because oysters are hard-shelled animals, they need something to hold in order to develop their hard shell. They need reefs like the ones built on Saturday, but because of hurricanes and habitat loss due to human intervention, those safe places are essentially gone in many areas. 

An extremely important organism that affects the health of our water, a single oyster can filter out 50 gallons of water in a day. Oyster reefs can be relevant during storm seasons as they break down and slow-wave action, theoretically preventing any more damage to the properties along the road. 

“Installing the reefs will help slow down the wave action, will help to prevent soil erosion, and also the erosion leading to the roads collapsing,” Dr. Sprinkle said, explaining how the castles would benefit Mobile Bay. “It’ll hold what is left of the beach together.”

Because of the erosion happening, residents along Bayfront Road, and any waterfront property, resort to building seawalls to protect their land. Seawalls protect the land within them, but they force the surrounding land to erode faster. However, should the castles be a success, the land erosion would slow down and allow the beach to build itself back up. 

If you are interested in volunteering for the next green project, you can contact the Marine Science Student Association and the Biology Student Association. 

Dr. Amy Sprinkle (MSSA)

sprinkle@southalabama.edu

Brianna Watters (BSA)

bcw1622@jagmail.southalabama.edu