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Oysters find a new home in the Presidio swamp;  project aims to adapt infrastructure to climate change

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – A project along the San Francisco Bay Area merges architecture with wildlife conservation.

Wildlife ecologist Jonathan Young rushes into the waters of the Presidio’s newest tidal marsh, to see the difference a year has made since the project began.

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Its focus, oysters, are now settling in their homes in a variety of pods and prefabricated panels put into service from last November.

“The goal is again to maximize the recruitment of oysters, so get them to come and settle on those panels and grow,” Young explains.

The project basically started with the opening of Quartermaster Reach. It is a restored tidal marsh, extending inland from the edges of Crissy Field and connected by a culvert system, allowing the salty tides of the bay to mix with a stream of historic freshwater.

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Young showed raised panels temporarily removed for inspection during a recent dive. Like the dome-shaped pods placed in the swamp itself, the panels provide native Olympia Oysters a home to attach to along the cement walls of the culvert.

“Oysters, oysters, oysters, oysters, they’re all oysters,” he said happily, pointing to the small circular oysters attached to the panel.

The introduction of oysters is actually an ongoing experiment, not only in urban ecology, but also in evolving design and in how we adapt our cities and coastline to climate change. The textured fiberglass panels were specially designed, created with the help of Evan Jones and Margaret Ikeda and designers from the California College of the Arts.

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“I think it’s part of a whole new way of thinking together about infrastructure design and ecology,” Jones says.

And Ikeda believes there are many projects around the bay that could benefit from it.

“You know, the San Francisco seawall, as they go to protect the two airports, the Port of Oakland is looking at different strategies. So this kind of work definitely informs,” she said.

Young says the Presidio team is still learning more about the physics of the coastal swamp, the areas in which oysters will thrive, and other species that could benefit along with them. And as renovation projects continue along Crissy Field, the swamp will evolve like a living petri dish of sorts, potentially providing environmentalists and engineers with innovative designs that can be replicated around San Francisco Bay.

“Things are changing and we have to adapt, and that’s unknown. So these are opportunities to use science to advance our knowledge,” says Presidio’s Young.

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