Electrically-Charged Oyster Reefs Get a Jolt from EPA, Ed Rachal Foundation

May 08, 2014

Zimba EPA

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— A jolt of federal funding is heading to the Texas coast. A Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi project that creates oyster reefs by using electricity is a recipient of a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program.

“We are excited to be able to build on our research and expand the knowledge about how best to encourage reef growth,” said Dr. Paul Zimba, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies at A&M-Corpus Christi. “The results thus far clearly demonstrate a massive potential for restoration of oyster and coral reef habitats.”

The project is set to receive $197,000 in federal funding and $120,000 from the Ed Rachal Foundation. Zimba and his team will construct two structures built from rebar and charged with solar power totaling ½ acre under the waters of Nueces Bay and just off Corpus Christi Beach. The team will monitor the sites for 1.5 years.

Oysters are an important ecological and economic resource in Texas and around the world. In addition to being a commercial fishery, oysters filter and clean bay waters, and the reefs provide protection from erosion and habitat for fish.

Zimba’s team is researching the polarity, voltage, and electrical current to identify the conditions under which artificial oyster or hard bottom substrate habitat could be created, and what mix maximizes reef formation.

They have worked both in the lab and at a site in Corpus Christi Bay using structures built from rebar and charging them using solar power. 

“Our hope is that this technology is used for restoration of reef communities, replacement of hard bottom habitat to prevent sediment re-suspension, and aquaculture,” he said.