Field Operations

  • Ready for field work
    Ready for field work   Kemarin Kim, Jess Moss Small, and Joana Sousa have loaded up the R/V Petrel and are ready to go work on ABC's Rappahannock field site near Topping, VA.   Photo by Eric Guévélou
  • Sunny day in Broad Bay
    Sunny day in Broad Bay   Amanda Chesler-Poole, Blaine Schoolfield, and Karen Sisler out to do some maintenance work at ABC's Lynnhaven field site in Broad Bay.   Photo by Nate Geyerhahn
  • December chill
    December chill   Kemarin Kim doing some chilly field work. In December of each year, ABC moves their oysters as far into the subtidal region as possible to avoid seasonal ice and extremely low tides, which can damage grow-out equipment and expose oysters to deadly cold winds.   Photo by Eric Guévélou
  • Diesel Daisy
    Diesel Daisy   Affectionately deemed "Diesel Daisy," ABC's hard-working rig helps to haul heavy oyster bags and gear to and from the rack-and-bag oyster farm on the York River.   Photo courtesy of ABC
  • ABC crew
    ABC crew   The ABC crew at the Horn Point Lab in Cambridge, MD. They've just finished relocating oysters to the safety of the boat basin to overwinter. In truck, from left - Karen Sisler, Nate Geyerhahn, Kate Ritter Sage, Joana Sousa. Front row, from left - Eric Guevelou, Shelley Katsuki, Jess Moss Small, Lauren Gregg.   Photo by Kemarin Kim
  • Counting oysters
    Counting oysters   Kate Ritter Sage, Nate Geyerhahn and Karen Sisler brave a bitterly cold March day on the Rappahannock River to tend to the oysters that will be used for Kate's thesis work.   Photo by Eric Guévélou
  • Young Oysters
    Young Oysters   Bushel baskets of young oysters. These animals are several months old.   Photo by Lauren Gregg
  • Early work days
    Early work days   Sunrise on the York River from the ABC field lab. Many field activities must be accomplished during low tide, so early work days are often necessary.   Photo by Lionel Dégremont
  • York River Oyster Farm
    York River Oyster Farm   Nate Geyerhahn, Kate Ritter Sage and Karen Sisler work on the York River Oyster Farm. They use floats to haul oyster bags to shore. The oysters will be sorted, cleaned and redistributed before being returned to the water.   Photo courtesy of ABC
  • Field lab
    Field lab   Linda Crewe, Lauren Gregg, Blaine Schoolfield, and Karen Sisler working on some sampling procedures on a foggy morning outside of the field lab.   Photo courtesy of ABC
  • Ready for the field
    Ready for the field   Karen Sisler, ready for a sunny day out at ABC's Kinsale field site, which was located at Bevans Oyster Company.   Photo by Loren Reller
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ABC’s field capabilities consist of oyster grow-out in four main farm sites using a variety of methods: rack-and-bag, bottom cages, and longline basket systems. A central field lab on the VIMS main campus supports the majority of our sampling, deployment, and distribution activities.

The farm sites, located on the York, Rappahannock, Coan, and Choptank rivers, are each staged in intertidal to subtidal zones. The field sites on the Coan and Rappahannock are on private oyster ground; industry partners have granted ABC access for holding broodstock and conducting experiments.

Farm Sites

The York River farm is located near the VIMS campus and is used for disease-challenge tests under conditions of moderate salinity and high disease prevalence and is also used as an easily-accessible location for archive material. This site employs all three of ABC’s grow-out methods, with bottom cages and racks in breakwater pools, and a large longline system installed in an adjacent area just offshore of Watermen’s Hall.

The Rappahannock River farm is ABC’s primary broodstock holding site. Its moderate salinity, protected location, and lower disease pressure make it a great site to grow seed and hold the majority of ABC’s spawning and distribution stocks. Tetraploid seed and broodstock are also concentrated at this site, where they benefit from its stable conditions. Bottom cages and racks are spread throughout this site in highly organized groups, each located in the ideal spot for their specific purpose.

The Lewisetta farm on the Coan River is one of ABC’s lower salinity sites. It serves as a deployment site for low-salinity seed each year, a test site for the family breeding program, and a holding site for some of ABC’s low salinity line broodstock. Bottom cages and racks run in long rows on this site, parallel to the shoreline.

ABC’s second low salinity site is located on the Choptank River at the Horn Point Lab in Cambridge, Maryland. ABC helped install a second longline system at this location, which is used by scientists from both research groups. ABC uses a portion of this longline space as another low-salinity test site for their family breeding program. The extreme low-salinity conditions that can occur at this site also make it an informative location for experimental work.

VIMS also possesses a pier and adjacent property on Sarah's Creek, a branch of the York River. There, the primary gear type are Taylor floats and the site is used for temporary holding of oysters as well as a place to naturally condition oysters. Due to the low streamflow, this site is particularly nutrient rich and warm, making it an ideal location for oyster conditioning.

Field Lab

ABC’s field lab is the central location for field gear storage (wet suits, waders, boots, gloves, life jackets) and is where processing of brood stock, experimental sampling and much of the “dirty work” occurs. Outside the field lab are all kinds of gear needed for growing oysters including oyster bags with various sizes of mesh, bands for affixing bags to racks, rope, wood, floats and sometimes oyster cages.