Lily McCallister, 14, of Severna Park, Maryland, an eighth-grader at Severna Park Middle School, undertook a project to increase the oyster population in Chesapeake Bay to improve the quality of its increasingly polluted water, and developed an award-winning science fair experiment that demonstrated the precise way in which oysters can accomplish that objective. As the daughter of a science teacher and a member of her school’s environmental club, Lily was well aware that Chesapeake Bay is plagued with microplastics, waste and fertilizer runoff, and other pollutants. She also knew that one mature oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. “The bay is an important part of our ecosystem,” she said, “and oysters are natural filters in our bay.”
So Lily decided to embark on an oyster restoration project. Working with the Magothy River Association, she picked a marina at the mouth of the Magothy River to grow baby oysters. Then she obtained oyster larvae from Oyster Recovery Partners, placed them in cages, and tied them to piers. For the next several months, she had to pull 25 cages out of the water each week and shake off accumulated mud, often with the help of her Girl Scout troop. At the end of the growing season, she released her oysters on a protected reef in the bay. In addition, Lily conducted a science fair project that showed how oysters improve the turbidity and nitrate levels of the Chesapeake Bay. “My hope is to make the bay healthier for humans, plants and animals,” she said.