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