ABC is foremost an oyster-breeding program. Researchers pursue a number of projects that inform and thus enhance breeding strategies. Many of these are accomplished through the family breeding program, whose purpose is to precisely improve economically important traits.


Carefully choosing which parents will create the next generation results in varieties of plants and breeds of animals. Plant breeding—which turns out to share many similarities with shellfish breeding—can result in drastic improvements in disease resistance and growth rate, characters that are of great interest to oyster farmers. At ABC, the primary goals are to use family breeding to improve survival through disease resistance, and to increase growth rate so oysters can reach market size faster. Learn more.

Polyploid Oysters

Most organisms (including humans) have two sets of chromosomes; one from their mother, one from their father. A polyploid is an organism that has more than two sets of chromosomes. For oysters, this means having either 3 or 4 sets of chromosomes. These oysters are called triploid (3n) or tetraploid (4n), respectively. Triploids have become the animal of choice throughout Virginia. This is because of their proven superior growth and high survival, even under intense disease pressure. Learn about our efforts to breed an improved polyploid.

Recent Projects & Collaborations

ABC scientists collaborate with colleagues in academia and industry from around the world to better understand oyster biology and enhance oyster aquaculture. This effort involves both traditional histology as well as new, cutting-edge tools and techniques including genomic selection, near-infrared reflectance spectrometry, cytogenetics, and probiotics. Learn more.

Graduate Students

Graduate students in William & Mary's School of Marine Science at VIMS play an important role in ABC's research efforts. Learn more about their recent research projects.

ABC role in Non-Native Research

ABC played a pivotal role during the intense period of non-native research in the Chesapeake Bay region. The aim of this research was to determine if it was appropriate to introduce a non-native species of oyster into the Chesapeake Bay as a means to address the declining population of the native species, Crassostrea virginica. Learn more.

{{youtube:large|odQFazJlF8E, Learn about our breeding program with our virtual hatchery tour.}}