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UNF coastal biology students restoring Amelia River oyster reefs

students working to deploy crab trapsThe University of North Florida’s Coastal and Marine Biology Program is working on a living shoreline coastal restoration project with the St Mary’s Riverkeeper to rebuild local oyster reefs at the Amelia River shoreline.

Dr. Kelly Smith, biology professor, and undergraduate biology students are working in collaboration with the Riverkeeper and the northeast coast resilience coordinator of the Fish and Wildlife Commission to deploy crab traps to artificially rebuild the oyster reefs. The students will then monitor and conduct research at the site to understand the best ways to preserve the oyster beds in the future.

The goal of this project is to establish a living shoreline oyster reef along the Old Town Fernandina waterfront on the Amelia River. Living shorelines are made of natural materials that improve water quality, provide fisheries habitat, increase biodiversity and promote recreation. The shoreline will function as a wave break to halt or slow erosion of the marsh while simultaneously providing oyster habitat and restore lost marsh vegetation.

Smith and students initially began working on the project in 2019 and collaborated with UNF Construction Management program students and faculty to construct the coated crab pots for the project’s use. Learn more about the project on the St. Mary’s Riverkeeper’s Living Shoreline Project webpage.