High School Students Gather Data on Horseshoe Crabs

While school may be out for the summer, the work conducted by a group of high school students from the Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island still resonates. Wheeler School students enrolled in Advanced Placement Biology classes have participated since 2008 in monitoring horseshoe crab populations along the Rhode Island coast during the months of May and June. Their work is part of a larger study run by Dr. Mary-Jane James-Pirri of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, who is conducting similar studies on Cape Cod, and overseen by their AP Biology teacher Sharon Tatulli. Concerns over declines of horseshoe crab populations have prompted much study and many questions. To learn more about the state of local populations, there are several individuals and institutions conducting research and monitoring projects across the region. The data the students are collecting helps scientists understand the population dynamics of horseshoe crabs.

The Wheeler School students, who named themselves “Team Limulus,” completed spawning surveys during new and full moon high tides, as well as two days before and after the high tides. The surveys were run at Gaspee Point Beach in Warwick, RI. During the 2008 season, the largest number of adult crabs observed in the spawning surveys was 69, counted during the evening high tide on June 1, 2008.  Students also tagged 34 crabs with USFWS numbered tags and recorded physical data concerning the tagged crabs in 2008. Results from 2009 are still being compiled.  The students will share the results of their research and monitoring at a presentation on Wednesday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Cost is $3 for Mass Audubon members, $5 for non-members. Registration is not required. For more information contact the Wellfleet Bay  at 508-349-2615.

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