A SURVEY ASSESSMENT OF NEONTOLOGISTS’ PERSPECTIVES ON THE APPLICATION OF GEOHISTORICAL DATA TO OYSTER RESTORATION
We conducted a survey of over 350 oyster researchers and restoration professionals from across the United States in order to assess their perspectives on geohistorical data and its applicability to oyster restoration. The 104 respondents were mostly researchers or resource managers (57% male, 37% female) working for academic institutions (39%), in government positions (36%), or at non-governmental organizations (17%).
Responses indicated that restoration professionals would use high-quality geohistorical information; but the variety of data types obtainable from the geohistorical record was generally not well-understood. When asked which of 10 oyster restoration metrics are directly measureable or accessible through proxies in the geohistorical record, a majority of respondents selected only four to six, and 22 respondents were unsure of the values paleobiologists can measure. Most respondents indicated that geohistorical data can be informative for restoration at least occasionally (96%), although 46% of respondents that explained their answers expressed reservations about the completeness of the geohistorical record and its applicability to today’s world.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents either do not consider baselines in their work, or use baselines from the last century (1900AD or younger), although many of these baselines must post-date the widespread oyster fishery collapse of the early twentieth century. Only 4% of respondents consider baselines 8 ka or older.
Our survey results suggest we need to continue educating neontologists about the utility and application of data from the past; collecting data and publishing it is not enough. Tighter collaboration between paleobiologists and restoration professionals is required in order to apply geohistorical data to the conservation and restoration of oysters and other threatened species.