Climate-proofing an aquaculture species: a collaborative 'proof of concept' project on oysters

Award Period
Award Amount
Agency Name
UC Mexus
Award Number
PI First Name
PI Last Name
Area/s of Research
Ecology and Evolution
  1. Project goals

The goal of this collaborative project is to explore whether an important aquaculture species, Crassostrea gigas, can be "climate-proofed". Here we plan to use research facilities at UABC to condition adult oysters to high temperature, and then test whether their progeny are more tolerant of heat stress. Thus, our approach relies on transgenerational plasticity (TGP) as a means to "heat harden" juvenile oysters with the idea that they would then be hardier in aquaculture setting in a future where ocean temperatures are rising. Experimentally, our goal is to assess performance of the progeny using methods that assess metabolism, and growth. In addition, we plan to use molecular tools where we will ask whether the thermal history of the oyster broodstock is transferred to their offspring via an epigenetic response. Here, past research on oysters in general indicate that this is possible. In addition, the lab at UCSB has developed assays to assess these mechanisms (see below).

Thus, the proposed project is based upon the following research questions:

    1. Does trans-generational plasticity, the conditions of the broodstock, affect the tolerance of early stage oysters to high temperature stress?
    2. Does the thermal history of the adults influence the performance of the early stage and juvenile oysters?
    3. How does an epigenetic mechanism, DNA methylation, change in progeny from adult oysters with different thermal histories?
    4. Given these results, does epigenetics act as a mechanism of rapid response to warming ocean conditions of the future?
    5. How can we deliver these types of approaches, conditioning broodstock to produce hardier progeny, to an aquaculture application and solution to near-term ocean warming?
  1. Specific Objectives of the Project

The specific objectives of the proposed project are as follows:

      • Objective 1 — To condition oyster broodstock to different temperatures for 4 months coinciding with gametogenesis.
      • Objective 2 — To spawn adults and raise cultures reciprocally at the temperatures used to condition the adults.
      • Objective 3 — To assess performance of the progeny using a series of biochemical can physiological indices.
      • Objective 4 — To assess patterns of DNA methylation as a signature for the involvement of an epigenetic process in driving transgenerational plasticity in oysters.