Local Adaptation in Olympia Oysters in Northern California Estuaries: Designing Resilient Restoration Under Global Change

EPA Grant Number: FP917430
Title: Local Adaptation in Olympia Oysters in Northern California Estuaries: Designing Resilient Restoration Under Global Change
Investigators: Bible, Jillian Margaret
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Ecology


The objective of this research is to determine whether different populations of Olympia oysters are adapted locally to their home estuaries and whether it results in different tolerances of stressors associated with climate change. Additionally, the results of this research will be applied to restoring Olympia oysters, an important foundation species.


This research will evaluate whether Olympia oyster populations from three northern California estuaries are adapted locally to their home estuary. To do this, my study will raise oysters from different populations for a full generation under common conditions in the laboratory to isolate persistent genetic differences from other confounding factors, such as effects of environmental history and phenotypic plasticity. Then, using second-generation, laboratory-reared oysters, this study will conduct reciprocal transplants in the field to assess local adaptation and perform laboratory experiments to analyze oyster survival and growth under conditions predicted to shift with climate change (e.g., temperature, salinity and carbonate chemistry).

Expected Results:

This study is expected to find that oyster populations will survive and grow better in their home estuary than oysters from other estuaries. This would suggest that oysters are adapted locally to the conditions in their home estuaries. Because temperature, salinity and pH vary among the three studied estuaries, it also is expected that oysters from different estuaries will differ in their responses to these stressors. If oyster populations exhibit different responses to stressors, they likely will vary in their responses to climate change.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This research will inform active oyster restoration by determining whether certain oyster populations are particularly vulnerable or particularly robust to global change. This knowledge will enable more informed management, assessing whether restoration will be better suited to some estuaries or some sites than others and whether certain sites should be prioritized for stock selection. It also will aid in prioritizing conservation of populations that contain stress-tolerant genotypes or ameliorating other stressors (e.g., pollution) for particularly vulnerable populations.

Supplemental Keywords:

climate change, local adaptation, native species

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final