Garrett Byrne Eagle Project (2014)

My Eagle Scout Project was an attempt to increase mussel growth and biodiversity in Manhasset Bay by providing the indigenous sea life with new habitat and protection from potential predators. The primary objective was to increase the population of Ribbed Mussels, which filter toxins and pollutants from the seawater as they eat plankton floating in the ocean. Originally, we wanted to use Oysters, but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation suggested we use Ribbed Mussels instead so that they would not be harvested and eaten.  The project consisted of three phases over the course of half of year. Phase 1 consisted of attaching mussel shells in coir mats to dock pilings in shallow water to collect larvae. Phase 2 consisted of moving some of the mussels that grew on the mats to deeper water in modified lobster cages for protection. Phase 3 consisted of moving the mussels in cages to a permanent spot near the end of the dock where they could mature.

The first thing we did was collect mussel shells from the beach of the Plandome Field and Marine. Mussel larvae are attracted to the shells of adults, so we hoped that larvae would attach to the bags with the shells in them and grow into adults. Next, we took a type of fabric called coir mat and used it to wrap the bags of shells around the poles. Coir mat is woven fabric of coconut fiber, and it is able to easily catch mussel larvae. After the mats and bags were attached to the poles, we power-washed 5 lobster cages we acquired from Cornell University in preparation to Phase 2 of the project.

The next phase of the project consisted of fixing up the cages we had cleaned in the previous phase. We used plastic zip ties and metal chicken wire to patch holes so that predators couldn’t get inside and eat the mussels while they were growing. After repairing all the cages, we took some of the mats off the pilings and put them into the cages so that they could grow undisturbed by predators. However, we left some of the mats on the pilings because they had become integrated into the environment and were providing habitat for mussels already. We hung the cages loaded with the mats off the end of the dock, and waited for the mussels inside to grow and mature.

During the third and final phase, we went out in the water to retrieve the cages during low tide.  After we retrieved them all, we took the mats out and wrapped them into one mass tied together with a few ropes. To give the mussels inside the best chance at survival, we moved the mats to a permanent home at the end of the dock in a rock pile. Now, when the mussels we grew reproduce, the larvae will be right by the rock pile and will be able to easily attach and survive.

- Garrett Byrne

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