World Oyster (Reef) Day: Prof. Rowan Lockwood & Dr Bryce Stewart “shell-ebrate” the mighty mollusc!

Aug 5 2020

David Oakes delves down to take a closer look at the power of an Oyster Reef with two experts in the field of shellfish.

David Oakes

David Oakes


Prof. Rowan Lockwood & Dr Bryce Stewart


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About this episode:

As kismet would have it, it’s WORLD OYSTER DAY! Before we found out oysters even had their own day, we wanted to celebrate these slippery salt-water molluscs because it turns out, when gathered together, they’re quite amazing and could provide natural solutions to many of mankind’s biggest environmental problems. Familiar voice, friend of the show, marine ecologist and fisheries biologist, Bryce Stewart, kicks us off with an answer to the most important question asked this week, “Why don’t you chew an oyster?”. From there we go into the cleaning power of oyster reefs – learning that a one-acre reef can daily filter 36 olympic swimming pools worth of water! Then Professor Rowan Lockwood, chair of geology at William and Mary University in Williamsburg, Virginia, explains how she uses the fossil records of oysters, and a technique called sclerochronology, to figure out how to restore the populations in the modern Chesapeake Bay. Rowan explains how oysters aren’t just filtration machines, they are ecosystem engineers, building three-dimensional habitats for other species to live in. And, as seems to be the case for all experts in their field, we drool over the deliciousness of oysters – because you simply have to eat your study!

An extra massive thank you to John Hartoch for lending his versatility of voice to Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” at the very tip-top of this episode. Thank you John.

David's thoughts:

Oysters are tasty. That’s about as far as I ever got – until 2020; until I watched this:

I am of the belief that modern agriculture is damaging our planet. Monocultures susceptible to blight or infestation become dependent on pesticides and herbicides – chemicals which then run off into our waterways (let alone into our diets) and cause ever increasing problems to an ever increasing species of humans who are ever increasingly reliant upon modern agricultural techniques. And so it goes around again. It’s a BIG problem – one I am in no way qualified to solve, let alone explain.

One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that if there was a natural solution to filtering out the undesirables in the waterways of our planet, then wouldn’t that be an absolutely wonderful thing to behold. Like so many of the worrying issues facing our ecosystem, evolution has normally created an antidote, something that was already keeping equilibrium without us being aware.

So, this is simply an episode in praise of the oyster, and in praise of all those aspects of the natural world (particular humans included) that work to keep balance on the planet.


Dr Bryce Stewart:
www –
twitter –

Prof. Rowan Lockwood:
www –

Chesapeake Bay Foundation –

Blue Marine Foundation in the Solent –

Oysters and Glenmorangie –

Dining on Mammoth –

Caribou and Anthrax –

Many thanks to Ellinor Michel (of previous podcast fame) and Jon Todd for making the introduction with Rowan. I hope to meet her in person in Virginia for a more in-depth discussion in the future.


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