These scientists predicted oyster harvest in the Hudson River with a pretty elaborate equation

Alexsandr Prokofiev, marine biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has come up with an impressively complex equation to predict the harvest of oysters in the Hudson River. All he needs is a…

These scientists predicted oyster harvest in the Hudson River with a pretty elaborate equation

Alexsandr Prokofiev, marine biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has come up with an impressively complex equation to predict the harvest of oysters in the Hudson River. All he needs is a generous dose of historical data and an appreciative family of oyster farmers along the river to give him the information needed to crunch the numbers and create an oyster-population prediction.

Photo Courtesy NOAA

That’s what Prokofiev, an assistant research scientist at the agency’s Marine Mammal Center in Patterson, N.J., had in mind when he designed his clever mathematical equation, which is likely not legally binding but is pretty awesome nonetheless. In order to create his prediction, he started with historical data gathered by the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s New York State Aquaculture Permit Division in November 2001 to the current month of November 2019. By combining all the longitude, latitude, and longitude data in his formula, Prokofiev explains that he’s able to tell how many oysters would be left in the Hudson River if the season didn’t end in September, when all the oysters would die.

Photo Courtesy NOAA

Each year, oysters clump together—they cluster together like an organized forest of leaves—and Prokofiev estimates that the Hudson has an annual population of between 3.5 and 3.75 million oysters. That’s a ton. But, because oysters cannot reproduce outside the wild food system, Prokofiev’s calcified population number is in the dark–at least the one that he can calculate. He hopes that if he can re-create the history of oyster harvesting data then he could extrapolate that those oysters were in pretty good shape.

Photo Courtesy NOAA

Prokofiev hopes that his query will highlight the environmental problems that New York and other West Coast states are facing. New York City, for example, has closed the city’s oyster reefs since the 1990s, because pollution from, you guessed it, ground and groundwater aquaculture operations, has left the reefs in silt. Prokofiev is mostly worried about the farming waters of the Hudson, since about 90 percent of the oysters harvested in the state of New York are harvested within 100 miles of the river. That means oysters are spreading from place to place from their oyster farm-dwelling perches in the land. To stop those oysters from spreading, Prokofiev is now partnering with a seafood company to harvest certain oysters from oyster farms upriver and send them back downriver, via the river to make sure that oysters in the floodplain are protected.

Photo Courtesy NOAA

Prokofiev has only been able to come up with an estimated million oysters, but he says that if his data is recreated downriver in a controlled manner, even a 5-million-plus oyster population could be preserved. As for now, Prokofiev is just finding out if he has a good crystal ball.

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