Spawning Horseshoe Crab Surveys

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Fast Facts: What are spawning horseshoe crab surveys? 

Photograph of a volunteer holding a clipboard on the shoreline near a pair of horseshoe crabs.

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. Volunteers have partnered with UNH researchers to study the population of Great Bay horseshoe crabs in 2012, 2013, and from 2016 through the present.


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: After being trained, volunteers can sign up to fill horseshoe crab survey shifts. Each shift takes about 15 minutes to complete, and volunteers can sign up for as many or as few shifts as they’d like.

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 Wells.


Upcoming Opportunities: Join our spawning horseshoe crab survey efforts!

The 2018 horseshoe crab survey wrapped up in mid-summer. Sign up for our monthly email newsletter to find out when our spring 2019 training goes on the calendar, or contact Wells for more information on how to become involved.


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!


Volunteer Resources

Stay in touch with the Great Bay horseshoe crab project by following their Facebook page.


Close-up photograph of two pairs of spawning horseshoe crabs in the Great Bay. Purpose is to illustrate the object of volunteer spawning horseshoe crab surveys.


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