Wagner history professor Brett Palfreyman and his students have joined an effort to revive the oyster population in New York Harbor. Oysters were a major local food source until about 100 years ago, when pollution and overharvesting had destroyed them. Today, the Billion Oyster Project is bringing the bivalves back to places like Lemon Creek in southern Staten Island.

Click on the photo and read the captions to learn more! Also, check out the video Onward, Oyster! made by the Museum of the City of New York, featuring Professor Palfreyman.

A photo of Brett Palfreyman and another volunteer tying a rope on an oyster cage on the Staten Island shore.
1. Palfreyman teaches New York City environmental history among other courses at Wagner. As a curator for the Museum of the City of New York, he created an oyster exhibit, part of “New York at Its Core: 400 Years of NYC History.”
2. Oysters feed by filtering water and processing out the floating nutrients, thus purifying up to five liters of water per hour.
3. Massive oyster reefs used to protect Staten Island from storms and floods by breaking wave forces. Reviving these natural barriers could again reduce the destruction wrought by common storms, not to mention disasters like Hurricane Sandy.
4. Last year, Palfreyman, his students, and other volunteers (shown here) conducted an oyster-growing pilot project in Lemon Creek. Several months of monitoring determined that: Yes, oysters can grow and thrive there, as they did abundantly in times past. The Clean Water Act of 1972 has made a tremendous difference in restoring marine life.
5. Mature, breeding-age oysters are being placed into Lemon Creek again this summer. This floating cage mimics the conditions of a reef and allows workers to monitor how the creatures are faring.
Photo by Pete Byron.