I have a great job. Evidence? I got to spend Wednesday evening with representatives from Audubon Chapters all over Long Island talking about horseshoe crabs.
Why is Audubon interested in these ancient Chelicerates, you might ask? Our local horseshoe crab species (Limulus polyphemus) is strikingly similar to fossil horseshoe crabs from over 400 million years ago. This species spawns on beaches from Maine to Florida during springtime and their eggs are an important food source for a number of migratory shorebird species. Horseshoe crabs are harvested to act as bait for eel and conch fisheries and over harvesting led to a decline in numbers, which prompted conservation efforts that seem to have helped the species start to recover. Monitoring is important to understand population numbers and how those numbers change over time.
NYC Audubon has been monitoring horseshoe crab spawning in Jamaica Bay since 2009, using a corps of dedicated citizen scientists. With the support of grant from Audubon New York, we organized Wednesday’s event to spread the word among our Audubon comrades from the island and get more of them involved in monitoring efforts that take place at sites in many of the chapters’ backyards. With understanding comes action; we are part of the network that shares data about these amazing creatures, with the goal of better protecting their spawning sites and ensuring that they are around to delight us and feed shorebirds for millennia to come.
- John Rowden