Nantucket Bay Scallops, Argopecten irradians irradians (Lamarck 1819), add around two million dollars to the Nantucket economy each winter. The adductor muscle that opens and closes the two shells in the live animal is a delicacy and Nantucket is one of the last places where wild bay scallops are regularly harvested. Since 2003, the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) and Nantucket Shellfish Association (NSA) have collaborated on a long-term study of the Nantucket Bay Scallop to understand scallop longevity, reproduction and survival and habitat preferences of the bay scallop.
The scallop research program has been very important to our understanding of the timing of spawning of the wild scallop population in Nantucket Harbor. One of MMA’s Research Associates, Valerie Hall, has collected data for her doctoral dissertation at UMass Dartmouth’s School of Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). A large part of her work is trying to understand the influence of nub scallops in the population. Scallops usually reporduce twice a summer; there is an early spawn around late June and a late spawn that occurs late in the summer or early fall. Scallops produce in the late spawn are referred to as “nubs” because they are very tiny their first fall.
Only about 40% of the nubs reproduce the following spring; the rest wait until their second spring. In the second spring, Val has found that they are able to reproduce equally well compared to the early spawned scallops. Nub scallops may be very importatnt in maintaining the scollop population under harvesting pressure or detrimental environmental conditions. For example, in 2009 an algal bloom or “rust tide” wiped out much of the early summer spawned larvae but the late spawned larvae were fine.
Val has successfully defended her doctoral dissertation proposal titled “The Ecological Significance of Fall Spawning in the Nantucket Bay Scallop, Argopecten irradians irradians (Lamarck, 1819)” to the faculty and students at UMass SMAST, and to her graduate committee. Her accomplishment is a major milestone in the Maria Mitchell Association’s/Nantucket Shellfish Association’s Bay Scallop Research Project. With the quality of her doctoral committee and the support of SMAST, combined with the input of colleagues Dr. Bob Kennedy, Senior Research Fellow at MMA, Dr. Peter Boyce (MMA Research Associate), Tara Riley (Nantucket Shellfish Biologist) and scallop fisherman, her dissertation will be the definitive source on the biology and role of the nub scallop in Nantucket’s bay scallop population.
The Nantucket Shellfish Association and the Nancy Sayles Day Foundation have been generous supporters of the Bay Scallop Research Project. Their financial support and the work of dozens of MMA interns and volunteers have been critical to the success of the project.
The Nantucket Shellfish Association and the Nancy Sayles Day Foundation have been generous supporters of the Bay Scallop Research Project. Their financial support and the work of dozens of MMA interns and volunteers have been critical to the success of the project and a great support to Val Hall.
Student Mentoring and Research Program
Dr. Peter Boyce, Research Associate at the MMA, continues research on the spawning times of bay scallops and what factors affect scallop spat and larvae. Assisting him each summer are several high school interns who each work on their own project while helping with regular field work. Projects include spat bag placement, mud crab predation on young scallops, and effects of rain on scallop success.