Fast Facts: What are spawning horseshoe crab surveys?
You can think of horseshoe crabs as “living fossils” - they have been around since the age of the dinosaurs. In modern times, their unique blue blood has become important to the biomedical industry to test for impurities in drugs, and they serve as bait in the eel and whelk fisheries. However, their population is in jeopardy due to overharvesting, and many states along the Atlantic coast have developed programs to manage their horseshoe crab populations.
In spite of this interest, little is known about the population of horseshoe crabs in New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary. This lack of information is critical, and citizen scientists are playing a big role in filling in this missing knowledge. In 2012 and 2013, volunteers partnered with UNH researchers to survey spawning horseshoe crabs using methods that are consistent with State agency surveys. After a two-year hiatus, the project has returned for 2016 and 2017.
Volunteer Description: What do horseshoe crab survey volunteers do?
Volunteer Experience: Horseshoe crab survey volunteers will sign up for survey shifts, which take place once daily, seven days per week, scheduled to correspond with low tides. Volunteers will work with a UNH researcher to look for and count spawning horseshoe crabs.
Time Frame: Horseshoe crab survey volunteers will need to attend a training session in May 2017. After being trained, volunteers will be able to sign up to fill horseshoe crab survey shifts. Volunteers can sign up for as many or as few shifts as they’d like. If you'd like to volunteer but cannot attend the group training session, contact Meghan Owings and to work out an alternative training time.
Project Impacts: Data collected during horseshoe crab surveys directly contributes to ongoing UNH research.
Qualifications: Interest in finding and counting horseshoe crabs in their natural environment
- Learn about and observe a fascinating coastal species
- Contribute to the knowledge and management of the Great Bay’s horseshoe crab population
Questions? For more information or to become involved in volunteer horseshoe crab surveys, contact Meghan Owings.
Upcoming Opportunities: Join our spawning horseshoe crab survey efforts!
The 2017 horseshoe crab survey season is in full swing, and it is not too late to join in! Please contact UNH graduate student Meghan Owings if you would like to join the project.
Learn More: Links, resources, and partner organizations
Check out this publication from NH Fish and Game about the fascinating life cycle of horseshoe crabs, and read this summary of some of the findings that have emerged from past volunteer horseshoe crab surveys!
Stay in touch with the Great Bay horseshoe crab project by following their Facebook page.