The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve needs volunteers for the annual Delaware Bay-wide horseshoe crab spawning survey being conducted in May and June on Ted Harvey Wildlife Area, Kitts Hummock and North Bowers beaches in Kent County.
The reserve conducts horseshoe crab counts each year as part of its mission to establish, protect, and manage natural estuarine habitats for research, education and coastal stewardship, according to state officials.
"The horseshoe crab population is very important to humans as well as migratory shore birds," said Jennifer Holmes, education coordinator for the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. "In terms of migratory birds, the eggs are a food source for the shore birds migrating north and that's a really good food source to fuel their flight to their breeding grounds.
"As for the benefit to humans, everyone talks about the horseshoe crab blood," Holmes said. "It can detect bad bacteria that can cause pretty serious illnesses."
For example, a chemical in horseshoe crab blood is used to test syringes for bad bacteria that can cause serious infections, she said. If the batch of syringes test negative, they are good to go.
Horseshoe crab blood turns blue when it hit the air because it is copper-based whereas iron-based human blood turns red when it hits the air, Holmes added.
The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve was established in 1993 as a cooperative program between the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. DNREC's Division of Soil and Water Conservation administers DNERR, which has two main components, the St. Jones Reserve in Dover and the Blackbird Creek Reserve in Townsend.
The horseshoe crab survey is part of DNREC's Bayshore Initiative that aims to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat, increase volunteer participation in habitat stewardship projects, enhance low-impact outdoor recreation and ecotourism opportunities and promote environmentally compatible economic development.
The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve has scheduled 12 survey nights at three beaches in Kent County, Holmes said.
"We'd like to have three to four people per beach per night," she said. "They don't need any special qualifications. What we do ask is that they attend a special training."
Among other things, training sessions will teach volunteers how to properly record data and how to distinguish between male and female horseshoe crabs.
Many beaches along the Delaware Bay are being surveyed through other coordinators, she said. The information collected each spring during the annual surveys has been used to monitor changes in the numbers of spawning crabs in the Bay and in helping compile fisheries management data.
IF YOU GO
WHO Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve
Page 2 of 2 - WHAT Training for annual horseshoe crab count
WHEN 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21 & 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 6
WHERE St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover, DE.
WHY DNERR is scheduled to host two volunteer training sessions because all new volunteers are required to attend one of the two sessions, and Past participants are also strongly encouraged to attend one of the two sessions. Volunteers must be at least 7 years old to participate in the survey; volunteers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
CONTACT Register for the training online by visiting, http://de.gov/dnerrhscsurvey. For more information on horseshoe crab monitoring or volunteering at DNERR, contact Jennifer Holmes at (302) 739-6377 or Jennifer.Holmes@state.de.us.