Maritime Aquarium Volunteer Opportunity: Horseshoe Crab Census and Tagging

Romance (of sorts) on the beach soon will be happening under the spring moons, and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk needs help documenting it.

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Photo courtesy of Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

The Aquarium is seeking volunteers to help attach census tags to horseshoe crabs as the crabs come up out of the water to spawn at Calf Pasture Beach. It’s all part of a census of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound, being led by Dr. Jennifer Mattei of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. The Maritime Aquarium is assisting with the census and tagging.

Dr. Mattei’s census is establishing a baseline crab population and will reveal horseshoe crab migrations and any changes in numbers or behaviors. The data is needed because horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source for migrating shorebirds. If the horseshoe crab population declined, that could mean fewer birds on our coastline.

Horseshoe crabs come up onto beaches on the nights of the full and new moons. That’s a tagging bonanza time for researchers, so extra volunteers are needed to help.

To participate, new volunteers must attend one of two training sessions at the Aquarium: at 7:00 p.m. on either Thurs., May 8 or Sun., May 11.

They’ll learn about the natural history of horseshoe crabs, what has been learned so far from the census work, and how to safely tag horseshoe crabs. Volunteers should be in 10th grade or older. Younger children can assist if working with a parent, teacher or guardian. (If you’ve helped tag crabs before, you don’t have to attend the trainings.)

Volunteers also must be game to be up at dawn or to stay up late for the crab tagging sessions at Calf Pasture in May and June.

“This is a perfect ‘citizen scientist’ volunteer activity for parents with teens curious about a career in marine biology,” said Aquarium spokesman Dave Sigworth. “You’re out there in the water and sand doing the work of real researchers. It’s memorable family fun too, but – because you have to be out so early or so late to do the taggings – it may not be best for younger kids.”

To sign up or for more details about the trainings and taggings, call The Maritime Aquarium at (203) 852-0700, ext. 2304, or e-mail jschnierlein@maritimeaquarium.org.

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