Our goal is to improve water quality and bring back a thriving ecosystem to Shinnecock Bay with a strong foundation in science and an ongoing monitoring program that informs our efforts. We believe that our science-based model for estuary restoration can have positive implications and lessons for other initiatives of its kind. We have four main focal areas of active restoration:
Creating hard clam sanctuaries: We are restocking overfished shellfish by installing hard clam "spawner sanctuaries" where clam populations have declined. We have planted over 3 million adult hard clams into Western Shinnecock Bay since 2012. These clams are not ony providing a key filtration function, but because they have been placed in dense concentrations, they can effectively reproduce and create new generations of hard clams that will repopulate they bay over time.
Oyster Reefs. Since 2018, we have built four pilot scale oyster reefs, which, like hard clams, provide a key filtration function in areas of poor water quality. These reefs begin as spat-on-shell, and are growing into healthy ecosystems that support many other estuarine species.
Eelgrass. We have been re-seeding eelgrass in order to expand this important habitat that is on the decline globally. Eelgrass is a critical ecological habitat in estuaries, generates oxygen, absorbes nutrients, binds sediment, and is a buffer against storms. Our approaches have focused on BuDS units and hand broadcasting seeds. To date, we have increased eelgrass in Western Shinnecock by an estimated 10 acres.
Macroalgae. We are exploring how seaweed harvest might mitigate excess nitrogen. Through in-situ experiments in the bay, we are evaluating which species of seaweeds soak up highest quantities of nitrogen, in certain locations and in certain months. Further, we are conducting experiments to understand how well these seaweeds can be coverted into organic soil fertilizers for more sustainable land use.