Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Specifically, Napatree Point. As a child, (and still up there in rank as an adult), this was my favorite place. Entering the narrow path at the far end of the Yacht Club parking lot, you are led to a magical place. Negotiating one of the largest decisions a kid can make, you are faced with a choice to either take the high road up over the dunes to the ocean side or keep walking around the bend to the calm, bay side.
Many times I chose the bay side-- why? The horseshoe crabs. They were everywhere. Yes, this was early 1980's so lots of amazing things were everywhere- practicing "the move" from Karate Kid on the rocks was no joke. These Vadar-like moving helmets mystified and terrified me all at the same time. The way they would clamber over each other, crowd together despite an open expanse of beach around them and their sheer size compared to anything else on the beach was captivating.
I'm not sure I can put a date on when I stopped seeing them everywhere- there was a long gap of time I only chose the ocean side for the social factor and for maturity from playing with the life along the sandy shores to relishing in simple sun bathing.
I have since moved from the Northeast to Florida and when I chose this iconic and nostalgic animal to portray through art, many Floridians also commented that they remember seeing them everywhere and now, not so much.
Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach, FL is one of a few places studying these amazing animals and has been doing citizen scientist surveys for the last few years. An easy, local choice for whom to donate the proceeds to for this collection. I was first introduced to MDC by one of my conservation mentors, Jody Palmer, Director of Conservation for Brevard Zoo. Jody returned from a night survey of horseshoe crabs in a state of wonder I had not experienced since I was a child back on the beach in Watch Hill. I knew I had to find out more and to help in the best way I could.
MDC's Project H2O Coordinator, Mallory Brooks, tells us more about the what and the why:
"With your purchase from Wendy Barnes Design you will help the MDC buy calipers (the instruments used to take measurements on the horseshoe crab), waterproof paper (as the data sheets tend to get wet during the survey), and headlamps (we survey at night and we need our hands free). All of these tools are essential to our surveys, but being a small nonprofit, these are not always necessities.
Here are a few quick facts about these awesome animals:
1) Horseshoe crabs are not actually crabs, they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions!
2) Horseshoe crabs have been around for more than 450 million years, even before the dinosaurs!
3) We take surveys in the spring, at night, at high tide and during a full or new moon.
4) Horseshoe crabs nest in pairs on the sandy beaches of the Indian River Lagoon.
5) Horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source for many migratory birds, including the red knot.
6) Horseshoe crab blood is very important in the biomedical field. It is used to test for bacterial on instruments and in many intravenous drugs.
Thank you for allowing us to continue collecting data to better understand the population of horseshoe crabs in the Indian River Lagoon and to get citizens like yourself involved with hands-on, feet-wet research!"
Why horseshoe crabs? Because, well, besides being amazing, people are out there doing good work to help them. Wendy Barnes Design feels a responsibility to demonstrate conservation efforts of any and all animals- horseshoe crabs hold a special place in my heart and memories naturally becoming one of my First Fifty Causes.
Wendy Barnes Design is a catalyst connecting conservation causes to everyday experiences through bespoke wildlife interiors resulting in awareness and action. Join the Environmental Good newsletter to learn about the First Fifty Causes Campaign and more at www.wendybarnesdesign.com.
Horseshoe crab photos courtesy of Marine Discovery Center