The Oyster is Adrian’s World: How Oyster Gardens Improve Water Filtration

Small but mighty, oyster gardens enhance oyster recruitment, the process of incorporating new oysters into a population to maintain population sizes; improve water quality and have a valuable role to play in environmental education. Adrian Sakr, a graduate student in the Altieri and Angelini labs, is experimenting with five materials to determine which oyster garden structure results in the most oyster recruitment and water filtration benefits in Sanibel, Florida. 

Click the video below to learn more about Sakr’s research. 


Oyster gardening is a method of deploying small-scale, removable oyster reefs, often on the docks of individual homeowners. They are later outplanted to larger coastal oyster reef restoration projects.  Oyster reefs provide a number of environmental and economic benefits, including habitat, refuge, and a food source for a large number of fish, many of which are recreationally and commercially important in Florida, and reduce shoreline erosion. 

Sakr recently won the 2022 Anchor QEA scholarship from among a group of graduate students across the United States. He will use the award to develop an integrated design tool for living shorelines that incorporates coastal and ecological engineering, landscape architecture and policy and economic components, with implications for more holistic restoration projects in the future. Photo credit: Adrian Sakr 

Homeowners get the chance to take part in oyster restoration and see the variety of species that make the gardens home, right off their pier. This project is in Sanibel’s East End Canals, a highly polluted waterway where Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation has long been exploring water quality improvement options.  

Sakr tests the efficacy of five different oyster garden structures/ materials. 

Post-hurricane Ian, all five oyster garden structures survived, demonstrating the strength and durability of these materials in the face of major disturbances.  

“These programs really have the ability to engage the local community and distribute some of the effort of oyster reef restoration projects from managers,” said Adrian. “Trying to improve the value oyster reefs play in the world is a core focus of mine and this is one dimension I’m excited to explore.”