BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. (WKRG) — From terror to toughness–that’s one way to describe a newly created oyster reef in Bayou La Batre. Scientists with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab planted a new oyster reef at a Nature Conservancy site in the bayou– they hope to make stronger oysters by giving them a little scare. On June 11, eight tons of oysters get passed along, before being planted in the water. Half these shells have a little something extra.

“Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientists are trying to grow a better oyster,” said Marine Program Director with the Nature Conservancy of Alabama Judy Haner. All the shells have a baby oyster or spat–but in a lab–half were stuck in a tank with crabs. Sensing their predator’s scent and urine and essentially jolts the oysters into building a tougher shell.

“We’re scaring them, we’re scaring these babies but it’s so they’re stronger and have greater odds of survival down the way,’ said Haner. “If what they’re doing proves successful it could have an impact on future oyster populations.

“If we can figure out ways to maximize success, that’s going to help in restoration efforts,” said Haner. She credits Sea Lab scientists for an experiment that could have a real impact on the oysters we love.

“You can do science for science but you can also do science that changes restoration and that’s what we’re doing,” said Haner. The project comes from funding from NOAA, the MS-AL Sea Grant, and National Science Foundation.