Student Research Projects

Diversity of Bacteria in the Visceral Mass of Commercial and Chesapeake Bay Bivalves

Student Christinna Thorpe ‘14
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course Biology 489: Research Methods in the Natural Sciences


Bivalves are abundant throughout coastal and estuarine waters throughout the world. They are ecologically important as filter-feeders in marine environments and can be used as bioindicators for harmful bacteria because they accumulate bacteria in their digestive tracts. Also, because many bivalves are edible, humans can be at risk for diseases when bivalves are eaten raw or undercooked. Over the last several decades, there has been an increase in human population and agricultural land use on the world’s coast. As a result of this increase, there has also been a larger input of pollution, sewage, and nutrients in coastal waters such as the Chesapeake Bay. As a result of the sewage influx, there has also been an increase in coliform bacteria. The purpose of this experiment was to compare bacterial diversity between store bought Crassostrea virginica, Mytilus edulis, and Mercenaria mercenaria with Chesapeake Bay collected bivalves C. virginica, Guekensia demissa, and M. merceneria. Bacteria were isolated from the visceral mass of the bivalves and cultured on marine and EMB agar. Water samples were also tested for bacteria.