FL Horseshoe Crab Watch Training
CHNEP volunteers participated in a FL Horseshoe Crab Watch training with the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute! Berlynna Heres, FWC FL Horseshoe Crab Watch Coordinator, trained over 40 volunteers in one morning to participate in the surveys. This citizen science program began in 2015 to train citizens in surveying and tagging Florida’s horseshoe crab populations! Horseshoe crabs come onto the beach during high tides to spawn which allows scientists to collect valuable data.
The training started by volunteers learning about the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). Horseshoe crabs are not crustaceans like crabs are, they are actually more closely related to spiders. They are often thought of as “living fossils” because they are older than dinosaurs! Additionally, horseshoe crabs have a different type of blood than humans. They have blue copper-based blood that clots quickly when bacteria is present! Because of this, they have been used in modern medicine to test for contamination.
During the training, volunteers learned how to:
Weigh and measure horseshoe crabs
Identify male and female horseshoe crabs (females are much larger)
And how to tag them!
Data collected on these populations is crucial for fish and wildlife managers in regards to species protection. Recent research by FWC scientists showed that data collected by trained volunteers has the same quality compared to data collected by professional scientists! Data collected in this program is essential in learning more about the behavior and population trends in the American horseshoe crab.
If you would like to participate in the surveys, check out their online training here http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/ncbs/2020/05/06/virtual-training-for-florida-horseshoe-crab-watch-now-live/.
To read the above mentioned research paper by FWC scientists, visit https://theoryandpractice.citizenscienceassociation.org/article/10.5334/cstp.385/.