Oysters, Livelihoods, and Anthropology

A research blog by Adriane Michaelis

Livelihood Diversification and Maryland Oysters: What it means, and why we care.

“Livelihood diversification” describes the process by which an individual or household takes on multiple income-generating activities.

In other words, it occurs when people have more than one job or way of making money.  Often, people diversify their incomes or livelihoods in order to make more money and gain stability in the face of unpredictable or reduced economies.  Fisheries certainly fit that bill, what with regulations that change, predators that wax and wane, and uncertain environmental conditions that vary every year. Understanding processes of livelihood diversification is important when considering how new livelihood or job opportunities may impact a community, a resource, or even an entire ecosystem. For example, if you are a lifelong fisherman faced with putting your children through college or paying for medical insurance, you might take on contract work for the state to do surveys. Or, you might assist with an aquaculture operation, or offer to take out tourists for a fee. And it may come to pass that the job you took on for extra income ends up becoming the main sustainer, depending on the situation.

As a Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Fellow, I’ve been investigating livelihood diversification within Maryland’s oyster industry.  More specifically, I want to know how individuals are incorporating oyster aquaculture – the growing, farming, or cultivation of oysters – into their existing livelihood portfolios.  (Livelihood portfolios are a fancy name to describe the combination of all the jobs a person holds.) Are they adding aquaculture as one more income-generating activity?  Are they replacing another job with aquaculture? Is aquaculture one of many jobs, or is it their only job?

Oyster setting tank in front of corn field as example of livelihood diversification.

Livelihood diversification can take many forms, such as combining land and water-based agriculture activities. Here, corn grows alongside a tank of young oysters awaiting transfer to an aquaculture lease or public bottom. Both are income-generating activities that contribute to household income. Credit: Adriane Michaelis.

Understanding how aquaculture supplements incomes can offer insight into the trajectory of not only Maryland’s oyster aquaculture industry, but also its public fisheries.  For example, in my interviews I ask oyster growers if they have stopped working in a public fishery after beginning work in aquaculture.  Answering this question may show whether or not oyster aquaculture is contributing to reduced fishing activity in the public oyster fishery as well as other public fisheries.

Bushel basket of oysters.

Part of my interest in studying livelihood diversification is to be able to answer the question: How does having a year-round oyster fishery (oyster aquaculture) influence activity in the seasonal public oyster fishery? Credit: Adriane Michaelis.

Over the past nearly two years, I’ve worked with and interviewed oyster growers throughout Maryland. As I’m finishing up this project, I’m still conducting interviews and don’t have the final data ready just yet, but have already started to see some interesting outcomes and patterns.

  • Livelihood diversification is occurring, with nearly 70 percent of growers interviewed thus far listing aquaculture as one of many sources of income. Diversification seems to be more common among growers who are or were commercial watermen. Based on my data, non-waterman growers (oyster growers who have never worked in the state’s public fisheries) are more likely to replace a previous source of income with oyster aquaculture, and are also more likely to have aquaculture as their only job.
  • Waterman-growers (those who are or were watermen), on the other hand, are often adding aquaculture to the other jobs and activities they are doing, in many cases as just one more fishery. For many, aquaculture provides a back-up or safety net if the catch is low elsewhere. With this in mind, it may not be too surprising that, based on my interviews, most waterman-growers have not left the public oyster fishery after getting started with oyster aquaculture.


Summary of livelihood diversification preliminary findings

Data from my study thus far show that livelihood diversification is occurring within Maryland’s oyster aquaculture industry, with some differences related to whether or not participants are or were commercial watermen. Credit: Adriane Michaelis.

All of my conclusions are preliminary but, once the project is complete, they will help highlight how a growing oyster aquaculture industry might shape the direction of Maryland’s seafood industry.  Are there things the state can do to encourage more aquaculture? How would officials go about it? Understanding livelihood diversification is just one piece of the puzzle in my study that aims to describe who is involved in Maryland oyster aquaculture, as well as why they decided to enter the industry.  For a description of the full project, see the research project page here.

And finally, why should we care? Oysters in Maryland’s part of the Chesapeake Bay are at less than one percent of historic levels. Putting more oysters in the Chesapeake Bay helps filter the water, increases biodiversity, and adds jobs in coastal towns without a lot of other commercial opportunity. Oyster aquaculture can provide some pretty amazing things, but there may be more to the equation in trying to entice commercial fishermen to get involved.  Stay tuned for my next “Fellowship Experiences” update that will discuss some of the motivations surrounding why people are entering Maryland’s aquaculture industry. It’s not always about the money, or the water filtered.


An amended version of this post was originally written for and shared on the Maryland Sea Grant Fellowship Experiences Blog. 



Indonesian Connections: Valuing Land and Sea

Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by an ecosystem to people.  For example, a saltmarsh ecosystem provides a nursery habitat for many species that may later provide food for humans, either directly or indirectly (See Barbier et al., 2011 or a summary by James Cook University).  A saltmarsh also minimizes the impact of storms and wave action on adjacent shorelines, providing humans protection against such events.  These are just two examples related to saltmarshes, but ecosystem services more broadly form the basis for a means of valuing the goods provided by an ecosystem, beyond the raw materials we use directly or sell. In Indonesia, these services are most often discussed surrounding rainforest conservation and coastal wetland protection.

Indonesia is home to over 88 million hectares of rainforest.  The maintenance of this forest is critical to sustaining  the diversity of ecosystem services provided by forests.  One important service is carbon sequestration, a process by which rainforests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus reducing the impacts of climate change.  An approach to maintaining these services involved the creation of the REDD+ program.  This program, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as the name suggests, aims to limit carbon emissions through forest protection.  One aspect of REDD+ entails the ability to earn credits (i.e. money) by reducing destruction and carbon emissions (see here for an explanation of how this is envisioned by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership).  Indonesia has benefited through the willingness of countries, like Norway, to financially support REDD+ efforts, but to date, efforts to reduce deforestation have not met the agreed benchmarks and money has not been exchanged (Jong, 2017).

Wisma Leuser Sibayak in Bukit Lawang

One approach to reducing deforestation is through the promotion of other industries, like ecotourism. In Bukit Lawang, a village in North Sumatra, ecotourism is a large source of income and provides a different way of benefiting from tropical rainforests. Photo by Adriane Michaelis.

While in Indonesia, we met with a number of academic researchers who expressed concern at the slow pace that Indonesia’s REDD+ efforts have progressed.  Still, these experts in the field are not without hope, and think there is potential in the program.

A more recent, but similar, approach to reducing the impact and progression of climate change focuses on “blue carbon”.  Blue carbon describes the ability of coastal habitats, particularly mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs to sequester carbon (in addition to a suite of other ecosystem services). When I was a student in the Indonesia course in 2016, discussions surrounding blue carbon and mangrove protection piqued my interest.  Mangrove forests and sea grasses are particularly strong at carbon sequestration and storage, thus when these coastal habitats are destroyed, even more is at risk (relative to tropical rainforest) as a greater amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere (Alongi et al., 2016).  This isn’t to suggest that rainforests shouldn’t also be protected, but that coastal habitats have thus far been undervalued for their role in reducing carbon emissions and the related impact of climate change.

During this second trip to Indonesia, blue carbon again came up discussions.  Unfortunately, it seems that in the two years since my first visit, little progress has been made with regard to blue carbon.  It is not that mangroves have not been protected, or even restored in some cases, but local community compensation programs (to reward mangrove protection) have not really taken hold.

Mangrove Beach in Bunaken

Mangrove forests, which line many Indonesian island shores including Bunaken Island shown here, are important both locally and at a much larger scale for the services they provide.  Photo by Adriane Michaelis

In both of these Indonesian cases, we see examples of payment for environmental services programs that have the potential to reward local communities and organizations directly for their efforts to preserve, restore, and improve forest habitat.  Also in both cases, the end goal of financial benefits – benefits that would subsidize local incomes lost through reduced forest-related livelihood activities – have not occurred.

Back home in Maryland, the ecosystem services associated with oysters are discussed as a means to incentivize oyster aquaculture practices.  Scientists have been working to quantify the amount of nitrogen sequestered by oysters, the biodiversity associated with different types of aquaculture gear, in addition to the economic contribution of oyster farming.  One of the applied aims of this research is to provide the framework for nutrient trading or compensation to occur for those who contribute ecosystem services via their oyster aquaculture operations (Cornwell, et. al, 2016).  While most oyster growers would appreciate the ability to receive additional compensation for their “green” business practices, other examples of less than successful payment for environmental services (as in Indonesia) serve as cautionary tales.  In principle, these programs seem like great ways to support environmental protection, but in practice they are challenging to implement.


Why am I talking about Indonesia?  See “Interdisciplinarity in Indonesia” posted earlier this month.

References and Useful Links

  • Alongi, D. M., Murdiyarso, D., Fourqurean, J. W., Kauffman, J. B., Hutahaean, A., Crooks, S., … & Pidgeon, E. (2016). Indonesia’s blue carbon: a globally significant and vulnerable sink for seagrass and mangrove carbon. Wetlands ecology and management, 24(1), 3-13.
  • Barbier, E. B., Hacker, S. D., Kennedy, C., Koch, E. W., Stier, A. C., & Silliman, B. R. (2011). The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecological monographs, 81(2), 169-193.
  • Cornwell, J., Rose, J., Kellogg, L., Luckenbach, M., Bricker, S., Paynter, K., … & Lacatell, A. (2016). Panel Recommendations on the Oyster BMP Nutrient and Suspended Sediment Reduction Effectiveness Determination Decision Framework and Nitrogen and Phosphorus Assimilation in Oyster Tissue Reduction Effectiveness for Oyster Aquaculture Practices. DRAFT for CBP Partnership and Public Review.
  • Conservation International (2017). Blue Carbon: Mitigating Climate Change along our Coasts.  Accessed February 24, 2018 from https://www.conservation.org/projects/Pages/mitigating-climate-change-on-coasts-blue-carbon.aspx.
  • Jong, H.N. (2017). Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+. Monga Bay.  Accessed February 23, 2018 from https://news.mongabay.com/2017/11/indonesia-tries-to-learn-from-brazils-success-in-redd/.
  • MongaBay (2006). Indonesia Tropical Rainforests.  Accessed February 23, 2018 from https://rainforests.mongabay.com/20indonesia.htm.
  • TropWater Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research at James Cook University, Australia. https://research.jcu.edu.au/tropwater/research-programs/coastal-estuarine-ecology/protection-and-repair-of-australias-saltmarshes/importance-of-saltmarshes
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2018). REDD+ Web Platform.  Accessed February 23, 2018 from http://redd.unfccc.int/.
  • World Bank (2018). Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.  Accessed February 23, 2018 from https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/carbon-fund-0.

Interdisciplinarity in Indonesia

As a graduate student seeking interdisciplinary training and experience, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a number of courses, programs, and projects that serve to expand my knowledge base even beyond what my background in marine science paired with my current training in anthropology can do.  One such example is the ability to take courses outside of my discipline, including a number of courses offered in the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.  These courses have extended beyond standard in-the-classroom training, and involved two Education Abroad programs led by Professor Tom Hilde, in Peru and Indonesia.  In part because of my participation in these programs as a student, I had the opportunity this year to join the Indonesia program as its Assistant Director and returned to Indonesia for the winter semester.

Indo 2016

As a student in 2016, I traveled to Indonesia with Course Director Tom Hilde, Associate Director Matt Regan (not pictured), Assistant Director Aria Remondi, and a group of 18 other grad students. Here, on our second day in Bali, we stopped for a photo near Lake Batur.

I have received questions about the relevance of the Indonesia course in Public Policy to my own research and career trajectory.   In the grand scheme of things, the course “Social-Ecological Systems, Environmental Policy, and Sustainable Development” ties very directly to my own interests.  We focus on the intersection of economic, environmental, and cultural sustainability (by definition, some might say this intersection is “sustainability” in general), traveling to four islands in Indonesia to gain both the “bottom-up” and “top-down” perspectives.  We meet with farmers, fishers, jungle guides, conservationists, scientists, government officials, non-profit leaders, and many others.  With each individual and group, we have the chance to ask questions and discuss Indonesia’s environmental policy, considering both past examples and prospects for the future.

The course is comprised largely of students studying public policy, but is open to others and throughout its 7-year history has also included students in anthropology (woo-hoo!), marine science, conservation biology, and geography.  While all students encounter the same set of pre-trip readings and assignments (see here for the student blog), each student’s experience of the course and the country is shaped by their own interests.  This allows for a wide variety of ‘take-homes’ from the trip, both intellectually and physically.

Pre-Trek Photo

Flash forward two years, and I joined the course as an Assistant Director. Here, the group pauses for a photo before beginning our jungle trek in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra.

For me, though we didn’t talk to anyone about shellfish farming per se, Chesapeake oysters and oyster farming in general were not far from my mind in our discussions with each different group and individual.  Topics ranging from nutrient trading to land tenure provide direct connections to my own research and since I have the luxury of writing about whatever I deem appropriate here in my blog, I’ll explore some of these themes over the next few weeks.  Look for these additional posts under the theme, “Indonesian Connections”.


As a grad student, one of the activities I’m involved in is organizing a monthly brown bag lunch series called “E-Lunches“.  E-Lunches are informal presentations and discussions geared toward ecological and environmental themes, within and outside of anthropology.  Each month a different presenter or set of presenters are featured, and this week (September 13th) I’ll be sharing some of the data collected over the past year.  This semester, E-Lunch sessions will take place on Wednesdays from 11 to noon in 1102 Woods Hall.

September E-Lunch Flyer

The September E-Lunch will feature presentations by fellow grad student Kevin McDonald and myself.

Confessions of an Ecologist Turned Anthropologist: Differences in Data Collection

I am three years into my transition from working as a coastal ecologist to earning a doctorate in anthropology because I want to focus on the human side of coastal resource management. I want to learn and help explain how science-based fisheries management policies impact fishermen and others whose livelihoods depend on fisheries.

As I navigate this transition in disciplines, one of the major differences I’ve noticed relates to data collection. As an ecologist, I was accustomed to recording readily quantifiable metrics – total number of oysters, length, weight, etc. In anthropology, however, the metrics aren’t always so cut and dried.


Blue crabs

These crabs have been measured to make sure they’re big enough to be legal catch, but my data doesn’t involve this kind of measurement. Instead, what was important to my work was my conversation with the waterman working the trotline that these crabs were caught on.

In my current project, “Understanding the Decision to Participate in Oyster Aquaculture in Maryland,” I’m collecting qualitative and quantitative data about why individuals have chosen to get involved in oyster aquaculture or why they have chosen not to. Ultimately, I will be quantitatively analyzing both types of data. This means that after all of my data are collected, I need to be able to tabulate it in some way, such as by saying “35 out of 50 watermen interviewed stopped crabbing in the summer to take part in oyster aquaculture.”

This type of analysis can be tricky if I don’t pose questions in a systematic way that provides comparable results. For example, to draw conclusions about whether many interviewees share a certain view, I need to make sure that I asked all of them the question that elicited that response. When drafting my interview questions, I have to think carefully about what sort of data I hope to analyze at the end of the study and what is the most appropriate way to obtain it.

At the same time, one characteristic of anthropology is the rich detail that its methods can provide. There’s a balance to be achieved – I need data that can be compared among participants, but I also want to be sure that I’m not constraining a range of informative answers through restrictive interview questions. To meet this aim, my project includes semi-structured interviews, during which I ask a pre-determined set of questions but allow freedom for discussion. This provides a setting for new themes or topics to emerge, particularly topics that I may not have thought of on my own.

A major aspect of data collection in my project that differs from my previous ecological studies is the importance of trust and rapport. For ecological data, I didn’t need to build a personal relationship with the oysters I measured! For anthropological data, however, I’m asking people to let me into their lives and to partake in sometimes lengthy conversations. This requires a certain degree of familiarity and the willingness of my interviewees to let me tag along.

Oyster farmer Scott Budden pulling oyster cages

Often, my field days involve meeting watermen and growers early in the morning and joining them for their regular workday. Here, Scott Budden of Orchard Point Oyster Company pulls in oyster cages.

Thus far, I’ve been fortunate to have met so many welcoming watermen and oyster growers.  I’ve had many informative conversations and interviews that range from 25 minutes to 6 hours.  Studying humans also differs from studying oysters because there’s always the possibility that interviewees are not being forthright with their answers or are maybe just telling me what they think I want to hear. Based on the discussions that have surrounded many of my interviews so far, I don’t believe that to be the case with this project.

There are times during my current project when I’m out on the water, enjoying a beautiful day, sorting oysters, and having great conversations, and I still take a minute to think, “This is really my research?”  But when I get back to my computer to type up my field notes and transcribe my interviews, I am very quickly reminded of all the data that my day spent on the water provides.


This post was originally written for and shared on the Maryland Sea Grant Fellowship Experiences Blog.

Confessions of an Ecologist Turned Anthropologist: Why Switch Fields?

Nearly three years ago I entered the Ph.D. program in the University of Maryland’s Department of Anthropology. This marked a transition point for me. Of course, there was the commitment to at least another five years of life as a graduate student. But for me, the more impactful change was my move into social science. After earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the biological sciences, I put those degrees into practice as a field ecologist. For my doctoral studies, however, I wanted to shift gears and focus on the human side of coastal resource management

I’m not alone in such changes of field. I regularly run into people who have made similar choices.  Aquatic biologist turned geographer, physicist turned anthropologist, pre-med student turned sociologist, etc. Everyone has his or her own reasons.

Before returning to school for my Ph.D., I was involved in oyster restoration monitoring as part of the Paynter Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park. This included dive surveys to sample oysters and evaluate restoration sites. Credit: Don Meritt

For me, I realized that I was more interested in including local voices in resource management than providing the data that help inform management decisions. Actually, scratch that: I do want to provide data to inform management but a different kind of data than what I collected previously. My data no longer involve measuring oysters or seeing how far I can stick my arm into the soft bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Instead, I will help to explain to resource managers how policies impact the people who harvest and/or grow oysters, and I’ll collect data by talking with and listening to commercial fishermen (watermen) and oyster growers.

Sure, I still measure an oyster now and then, but the focus has shifted. My current research involves better understanding who is entering the industry of oyster aquaculture (also called oyster farming) in Maryland and why. This sort of understanding can help guide the development of Maryland oyster aquaculture as well as highlight aquaculture’s implications for the Maryland watermen.

Dredged oysters

As part of my current project, I join Maryland watermen and oyster growers on the water. Here, aquaculture oysters are being sorted on a culling table.

I am studying these questions as a Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Fellow funded by Maryland Sea Grant, which is supporting two years of fieldwork for my project, “Understanding the Decision to Participate in Oyster Aquaculture in Maryland.” Using an anthropological approach that combines participant observation and semi-structured interviews, I spend time with watermen and oyster growers, asking research questions about why they’ve chosen to participate in or avoid oyster aquaculture. I am gaining an in-depth understanding of what working in Maryland’s oyster industry entails. Over the past year, I have also pulled oyster cages with growers in Dorchester County, sorted oyster seed (young, tiny oysters) in St. Mary’s County, and trotlined for blue crabs in Talbot County, just to give a few examples of what field days are like.

The switch to anthropology has allowed me to continue to focus on a topic that’s important to me, sustainable fisheries, but from a different angle. By talking with watermen and oyster growers, my knowledge of Maryland oysters has expanded well beyond what it was just one year ago — and I thought I knew a lot about oysters then! Over the next year, I’ll continue my interviews and will no doubt learn even more. Check back again for additional blog posts related to my project and my own integration of ecology and anthropology.


This post was originally written for and shared on the Maryland Sea Grant Fellowship Experiences Blog.

The Oyster Social Network

When you hear the phrase “social network” you might automatically think of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  While, yes, these are all forms of social networks, social networks include much more than social media.  Social networks are relationships among people (or other animals, or groups, …).  Your family represents a social network.  The parents of your kids’ friends might be another social network.  The people you call on when you need help moving might be another one.


The platforms shown here may be what first comes to mind when you think of social networks, but social networks are much more than that. (Image source: https://makeawebsitehub.com/social-media-sites/).


There are an endless number of social networks that can be described, but all boil down to different relationship ties or connections between actors (often, actors = people).  Social network analysis offers a way to describe and look for patterns within and between networks. In my current research project, I’m looking at two types of social networks that both relate to oysters:

  • Information Exchange Networks: I’m interested in who people talk to about oysters.  Who do they turn to for questions about oysters, and who comes to them with questions?  This could be about oyster growth and how good the catch is in the wild harvest, or different oyster aquaculture techniques, or anything else related to oysters.
  • Labor Exchange Networks: Since part of my project focuses on livelihood diversification (How many sources of income do households or individuals have? Is oyster aquaculture one of many income sources?), I’m also interested in labor exchange networks.  Who do people call on for help with work on the water?  Who asks them for help with work?  Do they compensate one another with cash, or is it traded labor?

With both types of networks, I’m currently using an actor-based approach to studying them.  That means I’m comparing the networks of individuals to look for patterns (rather than analyzing an entire network of all Maryland watermen, for example).  With this actor-based approach, I’m trying to identify patterns that may lead some to aquaculture and some away from it.  For example, I created the image below (as part of a short course on social network analysis taught by Lorien Jasny at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center), which depicts information exchange networks of some of the individuals I’ve interviewed thus far.

Here’s the output from the analytical program, R, which depicts oyster information networks of individuals I’ve interviewed thus far. In the network diagram, each circle represents an individual person and arrows represent outgoing ties. This means that the arrow is pointed at someone they seek information from. The circles, or nodes, are also colored according to a very general description of network roles based on occupation. Analysis of this network may lead me to question why the node in the top right is not connected to the larger network, or to look for patterns in network diversity and size among oyster growers and watermen.

One of the things I’m looking at is whether or not network diversity influences someone’s decision to take on oyster aquaculture.  Does diversity in the type of people (based on occupation) that an individual is connected to affect their tendency to take on aquaculture?  It’s too early to tell just yet, but this is something I hope to answer using social network analysis over the next year.

My project is just scraping the surface of the potential of social network analyses.  Social network analysis has some pretty cool applications.  For more info on social network analysis, here are a few options to check out:


Sunrise on the water – added benefits of early fieldwork

While I’ve taken a break from interviews lately because of other grad student obligations (and I’m writing this post from a locale a good deal south of the Chesapeake), I couldn’t help think about waking up for the field when I heard my alarm go off on Sunday after the Daylight Savings time change. My alarm said 6:00 am, but it felt like 5:00. Even so, it was still sleeping in compared to many of my field days during the past year. Working on the water starts early – so early that there were some days my alarm was set for 2:00 am. That’s one of those times where you wonder if it’s even worth going to sleep. The answer is yes, it’s always worth going to sleep.

It’s not unusual to leave the dock when the moon’s still providing the light.

Though some of the early mornings felt a bit rough, as soon as we were out on the water, I was wide awake. And as one of the added rewards of waking up early (aside from the company), there is the never-disappointing sunrise. I’ve seen a few while carrying out my research, and thought this post might be a good excuse to share them.  Disfrútala!

Sunrise on the Miles River.

Another sun breaking the horizon on the Nanticoke River.

Aquaculture America 2017

This week I had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, Texas to attend and present at the annual Aquaculture America conference and exposition.  The international meeting and industry trade show attracts academic and non-academic scientists, aquaculturists, extension agents, and industry representatives, among many others.

Aquaculture America 2017 was held in San Antonio, TX. (Logo (c) World Aquaculture Society).

I presented within the session, “Aquaculture in a Changing Environment” and shared my preliminary results trying to understand participation in Maryland oyster aquaculture in the context of a changing policy environment and a changing biophysical environment.  It was a different experience presenting a social science project at this meeting (compared to previous talks I’ve given that feature oyster restoration), but overall, seemed well received…at least based on what people said to my face : )

Part of Aquaculture America meetings include the large trade show, which includes exhibitors representing the latest gear and technology in aquaculture.

All in all, it was a great meeting and opportunity to get feedback on my project as well as discuss it further with folks that may be facing similar questions or challenges.  I also was able to see and hear from a ton of people doing pretty amazing aquaculture work across the globe.  And, not to toot my own social science horn, but it was great to hear mentioned in several sessions, the present need to incorporate social science into a more interdisciplinary approach to aquaculture development.  I look forward to returning to Las Vegas next year for the next Aquaculture America meeting, to share my own progress and see what’s new in other areas.

While in San Antonio, I took advantage of the opportunity to see some of the sites, including the Alamo — I did not see a basement.


Since January 2016, I’ve been working with Don Webster, Regional Extension Specialist with University of Maryland Extension.  Officially, Don is my mentor for my Maryland Sea Grant Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Fellowship, but he has been an invaluable source of information and afforded opportunities for involvement in extension programs since well before the fellowship announcement.

Extension programs serve important roles, providing educational programs and knowledge transfer from land grant universities like the University of Maryland, College Park, to citizens.  They connect university research to applied settings, and aim to meet the needs of target groups.  The Oyster Aquaculture and Education Program at UM Extension “provides programs and materials to watermen and others to develop profitable shellfish aquaculture businesses.”  In 2016, I attended and participated in as many aquaculture extension programs as I was able.  Programs covered a range of topics, and the full 2016 list can be found here.  The 2017 list of programs will be updated soon.

In June 2016, one of the UM Extension programs offered was an Oyster Hatchery Short Course based at the Horn Point Lab Oyster Hatchery. It included field trips to Maryland oyster farms, including Madhouse Oysters, seen here. (Photo c/o: Dr. Don Meritt, HPL Oyster Hatchery.

My participation involved several aims.  First, I was able to see and hear the information provided in each program, learning some things for the first time, and seeing what sort of knowledge and materials are available to interested users.  Second, attending all of these programs was a great networking opportunity, affording chances to meet oyster growers (and those considering the venture) as well as watermen.  Lastly, these programs allowed me to hear the sorts of questions that participants have.  Their questions show areas where future programs may need to focus, and also inspire interview questions because, chances are, if one person asks it in an extension program, there are others not in the program who share the same question.

Another 2016 UM Extension offering included a tour of HPL’s demonstration oyster farm. Here, Shannon Hood leads a group to observe and handle different types of cage aquaculture gear. (Photo c/o: Dr. Don Meritt, HPL Oyster Hatchery).

At the conclusion of every program, attendees complete an evaluation survey, letting UM Extension know what they thought of the course/workshop/seminar.  Part of this survey also asks attendees to suggest other programs they would like to see. This lets organizers know what can be improved for next year, and how to develop future offerings.  This year (2017), I’ve had the opportunity to join in the program planning and development and look forward to again participating in as many extension offerings as possible.

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