National Geographic Online

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Thanks Nat Geo for helping us get the word out there about conserving the Horseshoe Crab (and our own species)!

Here’s the ending that didn’t get published and what I did after counting only 2 females and 4 males the night of the full moon:

In the back of Bobby’s truck there were at least 100 crabs already piled upside down on top of each other. Their their legs and tails clicked against each other like a thousand knitting needles. Dr. Matt Salvani of the Cornell Cooperative Extension says volunteering “isn’t just for fun. You are really helping. It’s a real hands on experience. All you need to do is walk the beach and count…” Or in my case drive.

On my way to my car, I grabbed two females and three males out of truck. The female’s sides were full of eggs, I could feel them squish between my fingers and I am grateful that now she can lay them.  A little male lies quietly upside down in my lap, as if he knows he’s just been pardoned.

Volunteering is a real hands on experience. As I place the crabs back into the water, they unfold their ancient shapes and slip back into the freedom of the bay and a bashful full moon winks down at us from behind the clouds. Bobby, if you are reading this, I owe you six bucks. I wish I owed you more. (all photos by Veronique Louis)

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Horseshoe Crab Survey – Solstice 2013

I was late. I didn’t mean to be, but I was trying to get the new instagram to work so I could instagram the spawn and then I realized that I was letting technology get in the way of a 45 million year old annual event ! Man, does that put things into perspective. Do you really think Horseshoe Crabs would miss mating for a tweet? Should I?

I got to the bay as the sun was edging toward the horizon, but it was still remarkably light–it was solstice, after all. A group of volunteer scientists were heading through the dunes to the beach and I ran to catch up with them, but as soon as I reached the water I had to stop. There they were–crabs! Mating! Everywhere! In the shallows of the bay, males vying for one female, nosing him aside, traipsing over each other be the lucky guy(s).

We had a vivacious team of volunteer scientists from ages 7-70 and all were eager to participate. The Qadrat counting method, which was used on our beach, allows for plot-based sampling and works best in high population counts. (You can see the quadrat in the film.) Since two weeks earlier there had been over 1,000 crabs on this shoreline, it made sense to use the quadrat method.

Tonight we did not have thousands of crabs but it was still amazing to see the few hundred that we did see, moving through the water with slow determination. Some of the males were not so slow! In fact, I’ve never seen these crabs be so agile before.

We are counting again on Sunday night, when there is going to be a super huge moon. And tomorrow’s post will be yoga on the beach as the full moon rises! SUMMER IS HERE!!!!