A number of applied research and extension projects are conducted by faculty of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and other institutions in support of the shellfish aquaculture industry in Florida. These projects are responsive to the industry’s needs and are developed with input from the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association, Florida Aquaculture Association, FDACS Aquaculture Review Counsil’s Florida Aquaculture Plan, and other stakeholders.

Featured Project

Addressing Mortalities of Cultured Clams in Florida  

Clam growers in Florida have reported below-average survivals or total losses during the prolonged hot summers. A multi-step process is being implemented to identify contributing factors associated with mortality events, assess capabilities and gaps in resources needed to address industry’s concerns and develop a working relationship with research and extension faculty in conducting preliminary research and monitoring activities over the summer of 2024.   Learn More

2023-2024 Projects

Hard Clam Selective Breeding Collaborative Hub

Genome technology is being developed by the Sea Grant Hard Clam Selective Breeding Collaborative Hub to identify hard clam strains that can withstand environmental and biological stressors. Growers in the Northeast have witnessed clam losses due to Quahog Parasite Unknown (QPX), while in the Southeast, particularly Florida, growers have been experiencing increased summer mortalities due to excessive heat. UF is working with the Hub in applying a genotyping platform (SNP arrays) to develop heat-resistant clam strains.
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Environmental Benefits of Shellfish Farms

Shellfish farming provides beneficial environmental services to the coastal waters in which they are grown. A UF study in 2015 quantified and valued three ecosystem services – water filtration, nitrogen removal, and carbon storage – provided by clam farms. A recent study by a UF team assessed the potential legal, policy, economic, and nitrogen removal in using shellfish aquaculture for water quality improvement projects. Calculators developed in both projects allow growers to estimate the potential value of ecosystem services made available by their farms.
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Farms for Aquaculture Research & Monitoring of Shellfish

Mortalities of oysters reaching harvest size have been experienced by growers at some lease areas during late spring and summer. A preliminary study conducted in 2021-22 to monitor oyster performance and health at two lease areas was expanded in 2023 to a network of nine growers across the state. Growers receive “sentinel” seed, equipment, supplies, and guidance so information on oyster survival, water quality, and health can be obtained from farms providing greater replication and environmental gradients.
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Experience Fresh, Local Shellfish Along Florida’s Big Bend

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is a tourism initiative that showcases the diverse shellfish species this coastal region supports. Designed to immerse visitors in the world of shellfish, the trail guides guests to working waterfront communities where they can buy, eat, and harvest fresh shellfish. Spanning from Levy to Wakulla County, the trail encompasses 98 business locations, including restaurants, seafood markets, bait and tackle shops, marinas, and boat tours. A website provides species highlights, itineraries, interactive business map, educational panel locations, self-guided tours and practical information on shellfish.
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Past Projects

Clam Projects

For over 20 years, applied research projects have been conducted by faculty in various UF/IFAS departments. Projects are focused in four areas: 1) shellfish aquaculture production and management with emphasis on product quality, health, and species diversification, 2) genetic stock improvement from evaluation of triploidy, hybridization, heat shock proteins to thermal challenges, 3) shellfish farm environment with studies on effects of water quality and soil properties, and 4) other topics. Summaries are provided as well as results, presentations, and final reports.

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Oyster Projects

Since 2016, field trials with growers have been conducted by the UF/IFAS Shellfish Extension Program to evaluate various topics, such as 1) performance of diploid and triploid oysters, 2) effects of biofouling control methods on floating cages, 3) comparison of gear types and management practices, 4) optimal stocking densities for floating bags, 5) annual and seasonal production at UF’s experimental lease off Cedar Key, and 6) other topics. Summaries are provided as well as results, presentations, and final reports.
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Sunray Venus Projects

In 2006, applied research on the culture and market potential of the sunray venus clam, a native bivalve, as an alternative species was initiated. Projects addressed hatchery protocols, nursery and growout methods, salinity and soil preferences, consumer and market perceptions, product attributes, and more. Summaries are provided as well as results, presentations, and final reports. Also check the Resources page for fact sheets, videos, and results of recent projects, such as refinement of hatchery methods.
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