Discovering Noosa’s Native Oyster Diversity

Assessing natural oyster resources in the Noosa River to restore a functional estuary.

Shellfish reefs are culturally, economically, and ecologically important but have almost entirely disappeared from Australia’s coastlines. In the Noosa estuary, oysters were once abundant but have not recovered since over-harvesting in the late 19th century. The Noosa estuary appears to be a melting pot for both warm and cool climate species, and although a variety of oysters have been recorded, DNA evidence is required for confident identification. Due to differences in the biology and habitat preferences of oyster species some are likely to be more suitable for shellfish reef restoration projects than others, but this knowledge of which oyster to use and when is limited for places like Noosa.

In this project, Griffith University will use traditional collection methods as well as CSI-like environmental DNA technology to test the diversity of species present, building on the existing knowledgebase developed through NBRF and its research partners in existing projects. We hope that the new methods used will help us to detect oyster species that are rare or that live in areas that are difficult to access; perhaps it will even be able to tell us whether the elusive “Noosa Mud Oyster” still occurs.

This project also evaluates which surfaces are best for a range of oyster species to settle on. To do this, a few different types of settlement plates and dead oyster shell were deployed over the 2019 Summer to catch baby oysters. Despite the dry conditions, quite a few oysters were caught around the estuary and genetic analyses are underway to determine their identity. This critical genetic information will be used to provide a key for future monitoring and for the assessment of oyster diversity throughout the Noosa estuary.

The results of this research will directly inform ongoing restoration projects, including the NBRF funded Noosa Oyster Reef Restoration Trial and Biodiversity in the Noosa River program and Noosa Council’s reef restoration. The project is led by Dr Carmel McDougall (Griffith University), and supported by Dr Simon Walker (Ecological Service Professionals).


Genetic determination and documentation of oyster biodiversity in the Noosa River, leading to improved design of shellfish reef restoration projects.


This project is due for completion by the end of 2020.


Griffith University


Ecological Service Professionals (ESP)

Project Value