Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch is a state wide citizen science initiative that trains volunteers to survey beaches known to have spawning horseshoe crabs. The data collected is used for a range wide study that provides information about horseshoe crab morphology, mating behavior, and population size.
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, on a pre-arranged time, data, and 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). Surveys are conducted by groups of 2 to 3 volunteers. We currently actively survey in 13 counties with 8 more counties in the establishment process.
This program is made possible by the collaborative effort of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, University of Florida's Department of Biology, and Florida SeaGrant.