2017-09-26T23:15:24Z (GMT) by Megan Hintz

Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida), a species of concern in Washington State, have failed to fully recover after both over exploitation and environmental degradation. Although state agencies, tribal nations, and environmental groups in Washington have made it a priority to restore O. lurida because they are the only native oyster on the west coast of North America and provide key habitat and ecosystem services to the Puget Sound, our understanding of O. lurida larval dispersal patterns remains limited. The early stages of the Olympia oyster play a key role in their restoration because it is the only stage where they can disperse to other populations. Brooded Olympia oyster larvae incorporate trace elements present in estuarine waters into their shell, creating a chemical “signature” of their natal site before release and dispersal. With the use of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), the provenance signatures of larvae and recruits can be compared, and potentially matched, to signatures of source populations. The results of this study will determine the utility and geographic resolution of elemental signatures for tracking larvae in Puget Sound.