CONCRETE OYSTERS; INNOVATION IN ARTIFICIAL SUBSTRATE FOR OYSTER REEF RESTORATION, COMMERCIAL AND PRIVATE OYSTER FARMERS
Grow Oyster Reefs, llc, 4400 Mechums School Hill, Charlottesville, VA 22903 USA
Area Head; Architectural Design, School of Art, Design and Art History, 820 South Main Street MSC 7101, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 USA
Key words: artificial substrate, habitat design, scientific innovation, cross-disciplinary research, oyster products, climate renewal
I am a product designer and professor with a Master’s degree in Architecture who specializes in habitat design and concrete. I have been formulating, designing and fabricating concrete products for over twenty years. In 2008, I set out to design a new formula for a sustainable concrete to be used in marine life habitats.
Using biomimicry design principles, I began looking to our natural world for solutions for this sustainable concrete’s formula. Living close to the Chesapeake Bay, I knew oysters made a substance similar to concrete. While researching, I discovered the plight of the oyster and their extraordinary tasks as keystone species and aquatic engineers. With my specific skill set, I set out to formulate a concrete mix with the goal of closely matching that of the oyster shell. I would then create products using the new concrete to assist commercial and residential oyster farmers and scientists in their work to restore oyster stocks, and to further assist the oyster in its innate engineering feat of facilitating climate renewal.
Thus far, I have designed three patent-pending products including CaC03 Concrete Mix, an 80% calcium content concrete, in three different strengths for differently scaled projects; Reef Tiles made from CaC03 Concrete Mix, that closely resemble a 30cm x 30cm x 18cm section of an oyster reef; and a hand-held, 3 pound, 8cm in diameter Reef Disk that is used as a Spat Catcher and to facilitate Living Breakwaters. Our Reef Tiles are presently being used as the artificial substrate in an oyster reef test done by The Nature Conservancy as the first artificial substrate test in Maine. We are also presently working with Biohabitat’s scientist Dr. Peter May and University of Maryland professor Dr. Patrick Kangas testing algae additives for enhanced recruitment in our modified Reef Disk made with CaC03 Concrete with a 50% algae additive in the Baltimore Inner Harbor of the Chesapeake Bay.
In designing artificial products for the natural world, looking to nature for design inspiration makes for a product that is more successful in its performance and is a step forward for collaborative research.