Julie Rose (left), research ecologist for NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Milford Lab, and Suzanne Bricker, physical scientist at NOAA's National Ocean Service. NOAA photos.In celebration of National Seafood Month, NOAA scientists Julie Rose and Suzanne Bricker took to Reddit on Monday to answer questions from the community about shellfish, which they dubbed the “unlikely heroes” of the nation’s bays. The Ask Me Anything thread received comments from fishermen, environmental consultants, fishery biologists and consumers from around the globe.

Rose and Bricker recently contributed to a study of nitrogen removal by shellfish farms. The team is currently exploring how shellfish farming and restoration could be incorporated into existing programs that manage nutrients in coastal waters, ways to pay shellfish farmers for the nutrient removal services they are providing, and the economic benefits that shellfish provide to coastal communities. Using data collected from field and lab studies, shellfish farmers and models, they’ve found that shellfish, being filter feeders, can improve water quality by removing excess nutrients from the water when they eat plankton — the same excess nutrients that are causing huge problems in coastal water quality.

According to Rose and Bricker, who answered questions jointly, one of the biggest hurdles in their research is getting the data at the appropriate time, making accurate analyses and model simulations, and coordinating the help they receive on the federal, state and local levels.

They had a wide variety of questions thrown at them and answered nearly all of them — from explaining the difference between bivalve shellfish and shrimp and lobster, to discussing how filter feeders could help specific bays. Some questions were answered in full, but the scientists linked to a collection of NOAA and outside sources as well.

The whole thread serves as an introduction to the complexities of shellfish and their potential uses. Give the website a look and chime in if there’s a topic you’re interested in. While the Q & A portion is complete, you can still speak to users in the comments.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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