We depend on our volunteers
This past spring sampling season (Mar-April 2017) marks the 3rd formal round of nesting surveys and tagging by citizen scientists on Cedar Key beaches. One volunteer reported that they thought this was the most successful season yet, and we would tend to agree!
"Why?", you might ask. Well, the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch coordinator team is excited about the direction of this program for many reasons.
For one, the program is growing, and fast! This survey season was the first season for Hagen's Cove (near Steinhatchee) and Shired Island (near Horseshoe Beach). In addition, groups in Volusia County and Nassau County are starting up new programs on Florida's east coast. And the number of volunteers in the program has grown, too, up from 20 active volunteers last sampling season to over 47 active citizen volunteers this spring. This wonderful, dedicated volunteer corps donated over 820 total hours of time and traveled a total of 15,038 miles to complete the surveys this spring!
We plan to continue to grow the program in the coming sampling seasons and we are so thrilled about the enthusiasm for the program statewide! We are excited by the high quality of data collected by our volunteers, and the public education value of our volunteers' efforts.
Citizen Scientists Collect High Quality Data
This Spring, volunteers completed 12 simultaneous sampling events at 9 different sites, for a total of 108 surveys. Simultaneous sampling across such a large geographic area would be impossible without the help of volunteer citizen scientists. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is dedicated to collecting data on horseshoe crab nesting, but does not have anywhere near enough staff to achieve the high level of data collection the volunteers are able to complete.
This spring, volunteers observed a total of 2,333 horseshoe crabs on the 9 nesting beaches. As in previous sampling seasons, there were more males (1,559) observed than females (774) on the nesting beaches. The highest number observed in any one survey was 644 crabs at Cull Preserve in Cedar Key on 3/31/2017. Cull Preserve also had the 2nd and 3rd highest total number observed on the two days prior (3/29/2017 - 349 crabs, 3/30/2017 - 323 crabs).
Of these, volunteers collected, tagged, and released 373 total crabs. Out of these, 25 tagged individuals were seen again (resighted). This tag resighting rate of 6.7% is lower than the fall 2016 season, where approximately 11% of tagged crabs were resighted. However, we still got excellent data from the tagging effort!
Stay tuned for more!
Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch will continue in Fall 2017, and may be coming to a beach near you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tiffany.black@myFWC.com if you want more information about how to get involved in Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch.