Knee Deep in Research

OystersOysters aren't just a succulent treat. They can clean up polluted water. Baruch College natural sciences professor Chester Zarnoch and Timothy Hoellein are putting oysters' abilities to the test in Jamaica Bay, the largest urban wildlife preserve in the U.S., where grasses are slowly disappearing due to nitrogen buildup. "One of the things that oysters can do is filter out the plankton from the water and then deposit the nitrogen that's locked up in the plankton directly to the sediments," says Hoellein. "That's where the microbes can process it and turn it into an inactive form of nitrogen."

Gathering information from Jamaica Bay are Baruch professor Chester Zarnoch, right above. Also inspecting sample trays are Baruch graduates Narendra Paramanand and Allison Mass, and former Baruch professor Timothy Hoellein, right. Hoellein, now at Loyola University, Chicago, is still collaborating on the project.

Oysters at Work

A single oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water a day, but Zarnoch and Hoellein, who received a two-year grant for their research from the National Science Foundation, say it's too early to determine what impact the bivalves will have on the polluted estuary. "There aren't a lot of concrete examples of the influence of oysters in nitrogen cycling that aren't in aquariums, or in modeling exercises, so we just don't know how it will work in real life, but it's worth exploring," says Hoellein. Narendra Paramanand, a recent Baruch graduate with a degree in economics spent this past summer helping out with the research.

"I joined Professor Zarnoch to learn more about the science," says Paramanand, who started his master's program in environ-mental science at Louisiana State University this fall. "The degree in economics is going to impact the way I look at environmental science."

To see Zarnoch and Hoellein in action, go to the CUNY channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/cunymedia .