Oyster Industry on vimeo

Graduate Thesis project focused on understanding the complex socio-ecological system that is the oyster industry in the Chesapeake Bay in the USA.

What started as a research project on the depletion of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and the resulting environmental effects, quickly pivoted to the realization of an industry that is exclusionary and has a complex racial history. This project highlighted the importance of qualitative research, mapping of socio-political histories and looked into the racial contexts of the local food industry with respect to ecological degradation.
January - May 2020

Graduate thesis project:
Masters of Social Design, MICA

The Urban Oyster
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Design researcher

    Initial research looked at understanding the oyster ecosystem, the advantages, facts and problems

Research included literature review and conversations with Jasmine Norton and Carmera Thomas.

Diving deeper into the social systems and threads that connected this industry together, along with a better understanding of its history and context helped further bring key information to light. Research revealed surprising insights about data and the lack of secondary research in this topic.

The journey of an oyster as a “poor man’s food” to now a fine-dining socio-economically exclusionary food industry through the lens of severe depletion of oysters in the bay is a fascinating one.

This project recognizes the resulting loss of history and lack of legacies of the black oystermen and workers as the industry now caters to exclusively white-owned oyster bars and farms. It aims to dig deeper to understand the sensitive connection between the racial overturn, leading to the development of the final design challenge:

How might we uplift Baltimore’s history
& heritage
to reimagine an equitable
oyster industry?


Images taken from LIFE magazine’s article celebrating black watermen during the Maritime Museum’s Black History month.

*This project was halted due to COVID-19 and is still an on-going project.
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 2020 ︎Eesha Patne ︎ eesha.patne@gmail.com