Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi

Dr. Jennifer Beseres Pollack

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Jennifer Beseres Pollack

Sink Your Shucks
Before Dr. Jennifer Beseres Pollack developed the first oyster shell recycling program for the Texas Coastal Bend in November 2009, she knew of no other operation in the state to return shucked oyster shells to bay waters to restore their habitat. The professional assistant professor in the Department of Life Sciences established a collaboration between the University, the Harte Research Institute (HRI), Port Corpus Christi, Water Street Restaurants and Niko’s steakhouse, which has reclaimed more than 90,000 pounds of oyster shells to date. Each week University students transport bins of oyster shells from the restaurants to the Port, where the shells are dried in the sun and later reintroduced into the system. In the past these oyster shells were discarded in the landfill rather than being returned to the bay waters, which provide hard structures for young oysters to attach and grow. Oyster reefs, which are one of the most threatened marine habitats on the planet, create fish habitat, filter and clean bay waters, protect shorelines from erosion and are a valuable industry. In May, the project partners will use the recycled shells to restore a 3.8 acre reef in Copano Bay, and in 2012 they plan to build an educational oyster reef near Goose Island State Park that will be easily accessible to Corpus Christi Independent School District students for use in their aquatic science curriculum. Pollack, who began her journey with the HRI in 2007 working as a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Paul Montagna, has been awarded numerous grants from the Texas General Land Office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the Gulf of Mexico Foundation to fund key programs. Her research areas include shellfish ecology and fisheries, restoration ecology and effects of freshwater inflow on estuarine population dynamics and community structure. She has also been published in numerous journals and serves as the Fisheries and Mariculture Master’s Program Coordinator and the Peace Corps Master’s International Program Coordinator. For more information on the Oyster Recycling Program, go to www.oysterrecycling.org.

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