Robinson W. (Wally) Fulweiler

Faculty Research Fellow
Associate Professor of Biology (jointly with Earth & Environment)

Synthesizing the Nitrogen Removal Capacity of Oyster Aquaculture

Excess nitrogen causes coastal eutrophication and a variety of negative consequences, including hypoxia/anoxia events and decreased biodiversity. In an effort to ameliorate this excess nitrogen, land-based nutrient mitigation strategies (e.g., improved wastewater treatment) are employed. While these efforts can be successful, they are not 100% efficient and they cannot capture non-point nutrient sources. We need other solutions. One solution is harnessing the power of oysters, efficient filter feeders that clean the water column of particles and appear to stimulate sediment denitrification, thereby removing excess nitrogen. Denitrification is a microbial process that removes biologically usable nitrogen, providing a natural filter that can help improve water quality and ecosystem function. For roughly the past decade, researchers have been measuring rates of denitrification associated with oyster aquaculture in different coastal environments with different techniques. The goal of this project is to synthesize this research. Fulweiler will host a workshop for oyster farmers and scientists where they will assess the current state of knowledge of nitrogen removal via denitrification associated with oyster aquaculture, examine environmental conditions that are associated with efficient denitrification, and help develop a path forward for including nitrogen removal capacity in future nutrient trading schemes. Ultimately, this project will inform coastal water quality management and nutrient trading credit policy.


PhD University of Rhode Island


Wally Fulweiler is a biogeochemist and ecosystem ecologist broadly interested in how humans alter coastal environments. She earned my Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in 2007 and conducted postdoc at Louisiana State University before joining Boston University in 2008. She was awarded a Sloan Fellowship in 2012, the first time this award was given in Ocean Sciences. In 2014, she was awarded the Cronin award from the Coastal Estuarine Research Federation. She received tenure in April 2014 and became the Director of the BU Marine Program in in 2016.

Her research group is focused on answering fundamental questions about energy flow and biogeochemical cycling of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and silica), carbon, and oxygen across the land-ocean continuum. She is particularly interested in how anthropogenic changes effect the ecology and elemental cycling of ecosystems on a variety of scales (i.e. local: nutrient loading; regional/global: climate change). Current research is centered on the transformations and the ultimate fate of nitrogen in the marine environment, the impact of climate change on benthic-pelagic coupling, silicon cycling in forests, salt marshes, and urban systems, and the environmental controls on greenhouse gas emissions in coastal systems.