Making a Contribution by Walking the Beach

Horseshoe crabs come ashore to mate at Baldpoint, Florida

For the past several years, Green Guides, Master Naturalists and other volunteers have been making a contribution to science and medicine by walking the beach.They are trained by the University of Florida and FWC scientists to collect data on a important species, the Horseshoe crab.

Are you looking for a way to make a meaningful contribution to science and medicine?  Are you willing to make a commitment to do so?  Is your commitment strong enough to spend a day in training? You don’t need a background in science but you do need a willingness to learn and a volunteer spirit. If that sounds like you, then join other volunteers just like yourself, who are helping FWC  and other organizations in the Horseshoe crab research program. Did I mention you must enjoy walking the beach? Here are the details on how you can participate as a citizen scientist:

 

ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch
is a scientifically rigorous citizen science initiative that takes a fair amount of commitment in time.  Training is required, and normally two training workshops are conducted per year–one in early spring and one in early fall.  (See attached map for locations in which the program has been implemented.)* Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s field lab at Cedar Key in Levy County is our “program headquarters” where the data repository is kept. Also, our partner organization, UF/IFAS is located at the Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, and coordinates the volunteers for the 8 stations sampled from the Levy County area.

For each location throughout the state, there is a volunteer coordinator, who then works with a corps of local volunteers.  These trained volunteers are scheduled ahead of time, on full or new moons, generally in the spring (March-May) or Fall (Sept-Oct).  Sampling times vary by area. The field portion consists of a Survey (walking along the beach to count crabs in a particular way, on a pre-arranged time and date, at a particular location, set by your volunteer coordinator) and then capturing and tagging a subset of the crabs you find.  You are also looking for tagged crabs during the survey.  Field days average 12-24 per year (about a dozen each season, which varies by location). We like for our volunteers to try to come for one or two field days per season.  Surveys are conducted by groups of 2 to 3 volunteers.

To get an idea of the protocol, a series of training videos can be viewed here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV0Nf-Mq69A&list=PL49ILpscAX53wrdt3waiF-DdPIexhIWQK These videos do NOT replace training in the field, but rather, are used as refreshers or introductions for people who are already trained or are interested in the project.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

REPORT HORSESHOE CRAB NESTING BEACHES
If you feel that you are not interested in the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program, there is another way to contribute to our state’s knowledge of horseshoe crabs.  We have an FWC reporter app that you can download to your smartphone.  The latest release on Android is available from the Google Playstore and on iOS on the Apple App Store, which reports to this survey format:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/horseshoe_crab

You can also email horseshoe@myfwc.com with sightings of nesting horseshoe crabs.  FWC has been keeping records of horseshoe crab spawning areas in the state since 2002. This is NOT a scientifically rigorous study, but rather a database kept of all the horseshoe crab sightings people have had over the years.

For more information or if you would like to be invited to the next year’s training session, please email:
Tiffany.black@myfwc.com
or call (352) 543-1080

Current and possible future Florida  Horseshoe Watch locations.