First draft

The following is a storyboard/outline for my animation. I initially planned to target an “interested” audience (e.g. the oyster industry and policymakers). However, as I was writing the storyboard, I started to realize what an entertaining format this is, and a more targeted message might seem awkward. As a result, I decided to keep the message as simple as possible, for as general an audience as possible.

I tried to write the story as a narrative, with oysters being potential “pollution fighters,” and the story revealing how effective they actually are. While I don’t get into specific numbers, I’ll show qualitative amounts via a bar graph, and reduced algae in the animation. One of my most important findings of my research is that reactive nitrogen (N) return to the water column is a significant process that can potentially counteract N extraction. While I could have used this as the moral of my story, I found it difficult to have this potentially disappointing finding be the climax of the story. So I focused on the good news (total extraction) as the main result, and include the reactive N as a link to “more research needed.”

Opening credits   ·   “Oysters – Nature’s pollution fighters?”
Background Nutrient pollution in coastal waters is a serious issue that causes all kinds of environmental problems. When nutrients, for example N from fertilizer runoff, enter waterways, they cause algae to grow out of control, which can smother coastal grasses and kill fish. ·   N flows into water

·   Algae grows, water becomes dark, fish die

Problem We know that bivalves like oysters filter a lot of algae out of the water, but what about N? Can oysters be used to remove N, and help clean up nutrient pollution in coastal waters? ·   Oysters filtering, and water getting cleaner
Explain mechanism When oysters eat algae, some of the N in that algae is assimilated into the oyster’s tissues. When farmed oysters are harvested, this assimilated N is pulled out of the water (1). This removal of N by harvest is good for water quality!

However, most of the N that oysters eat is not assimilated. It’s actually spit out and ends up on the sediment. What happens to this N? The fate of this N is also important to water quality. The deposited N can stay put, and be buried (2), which also removes N from the water. Alternatively, it can be transformed by microbes to other forms of N that return to the water column.

One such process, called denitrification, produces N gas, a form of N that most algae can’t use. This gas will eventually diffuse out of the water, removing N, and helping water quality (3).

·   Oysters suck in algae-N and grow. Point to the oyster for assimilation (Arrow 1: “Harvest”).


·   Oyster spits out brown-N to sediment

·   Point to burial (Arrow 2: “Burial”)


·   Blue-N bubbles rise from sediment

·   Point to denitrification (Arrow 3: “Denitrification”)



Explain results So how much N can these processes actually remove? We measured these at an oyster farm in VA, and found that harvest removed the most N, and that burial may also be significant. Denitrification, however, was limited and only removed a very small amount of N.

Even though denitrification was limited, harvest and burial alone could remove much of the N entering the water around the farm. So oysters can be effective pollution cleaners. That’s great news for water quality!

·   Show bar graph, with oysters, brown-N, and blue-N piling up (to represent each pathway).

·   Maybe show arrows pointing to each pile again?


·   Maybe show algae flowing into bar graph (left to right), and less algae flowing out the right side.



Link to future research However, oysters aren’t perfect. Other microbial processes in the sediment under oysters produce forms of N that algae like to use. These forms, which we call reactive N, can be used by algae over and over again, potentially counteracting the benefits of the removed N.

At our farm, this return of reactive N to the water was big…really big…even larger than harvest. Does this reactive N ultimately counteract the benefits of the N removal? We’re still not sure. That likely depends on location, and we need to research this more in future studies.

·   Red-N bubbles rise from sediment and build up on bar graph

·   Point to reactive N (Arrow 4: “Reactive N (Nutrient pollution)”)

·   Algae re-appear with red-N





·   Bar graph washes away


Conclusion (still deciding whether or not I need one, or just end with the text above.)
Acknowledgements Created by: Abby Lunstrum

Music by: (probably my friend)

Funded by: VASG

·   Blank screen with text.



Project proposal

Nutrient pollution in Chesapeake Bay continues to be an environmental problem despite decades of effort to reduce nutrient inputs. “Nutrient bioextraction” using bivalve aquaculture has been proposed as a method for mitigating upstream pollution, especially for nitrogen (N). However, the total amount of N that can be removed, as well as potential negative environmental impacts, are still poorly quantified for oyster aquaculture. As a result uncertainties and debate remain about the effectiveness of using oysters for nutrient bioextraction. To help resolve this debate, my MS research quantified N bioextraction, as well as processes that returned N to the water column, at a commercial oyster farm in Chesapeake Bay. My communication project aims to present my conclusions in an engaging way using stop-motion photography animation.

I plan to target two specific stakeholder groups with this project: 1) policymakers and scientists involved in aquaculture and/or coastal water quality; and 2) people involved in the bivalve aquaculture industry.  The latter group—the aquaculture industry at large—may be relatively less informed about the nutrient bioextraction debate, and the science behind nutrient pollution in general. Thus, for this group, my animation will need to clearly explain the concepts of a) nutrient pollution and b) nutrient bioextraction. I expect relevant policymakers and scientists are already knowledgeable about these concepts, but would be interested in learning about my research results pertaining to the effectiveness of oyster aquaculture for nutrient bioextraction. Thus, for this group, my animation will need to clearly present quantified results, using language and depth of explanation appropriate for scientists and policymakers. To actively engage both groups, my animation will thus need to clearly explain: a) what is eutrophication; b) what is nutrient bioextraction; and c) how effective was the farm I studied at extracting nutrients.

The animation will be 1-2 minutes, and will be created using paper cut outs, photographed with a digital SLR camera, and produced (with sound) in iMovie or a similar program.  Examples of this animation method can be found at, which hosts animations of ecological concepts made primarily by students at Brown University. Once it is produced, I will disseminate the animation by showing it at live presentations including the VA Sea Grant annual symposium and a NOAA brown bag lunch, which I am planning to give in spring 2016 with the help of my mentor, who is a NOAA scientist. I will also post the animation online (e.g., on my personal website), and will advertise the link in appropriate venues, possibly including the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences homepage, the VA Sea Grant webpage, and industry webpages. Putting the animation on the internet will communicate the issue to an even wider audience. Although the main theme of the animation is nutrient bioextraction, the story reinforces understanding of nutrient pollution, which is still poorly understood by the general public. Oysters are an increasingly trendy food, and the public is eager to learn more about them, so an animation about oyster aquaculture specifically is a good vehicle to deliver this message.