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Volunteers needed for horseshoe crab project

Horseshoe crab shells. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Often, when I meet people, they ask me. “What do you do?” When I tell them I’m a marine biologist, I get replies like, “Cool, I always wanted to be a marine biologist” or “I wish I could do that.”

Here’s your chance. We are looking for volunteers to serve as citizen scientists for one of the coolest programs I work on: the “Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch” program.

The Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch is a citizen science program created, in part, because of the lack of knowledge about the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) population in Florida. The program takes advantage of the beach nesting behavior of horseshoe crabs to collect valuable information.

Our volunteers will walk a known section of beach at predetermined times and count the number of horseshoe crab mating groups they see. A small subset of crabs is collected, measured, tagged with a small numbered disc, and released back into the wild. Reports of these tagged horseshoe crabs help track crab movements, reappearances on beaches and determine population trends.

Horseshoe crabs are very important for several reasons. Many marine species, like the threatened migratory red knot bird, eat horseshoe crabs or their eggs. Horseshoe crabs are also used as bait for conch and eel fisheries.

The blood of horseshoe crabs even is vital for biomedical testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that all injectable medicines, devices used for injection, and internal prosthetic undergo testing with an extract only found in horseshoe crab blood.

Citizen scientists provide a great service by helping the state keep track of population numbers, which helps with the management of the species to ensure that the ecological functions of horseshoe crabs continue.

So, if you are one of those people that longs to be a marine biologist, someone who likes the idea of helping to collect critical data, have a passion for conservation, or any/all of the above, join us at our next Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch training. We meet noon to 4:30 p.m. May 29 (Wednesday) at Historic Spanish Point in Osprey. Learn more and register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/florida-horseshoe-crab-watch-sarasota-county-tickets-60948081352

And for more information about this program, visit https://ncbs.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/florida-horseshoe-crab-watch/

I hope to see you there.

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