The spring moons soon will be drawing male and female horseshoe crabs up onto the beaches for an annual mating ritual, and the staff from the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will be on hand to greet them.

But the Maritime Aquarium is seeking volunteers to help attach census tags to horseshoe crabs as they come up out of the water to spawn at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. It's all part of a census of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound, being led by Dr. Jennifer Mattei of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. The Maritime Aquarium is assisting with the census and tagging.

Mattei's census is establishing a baseline crab population and will reveal horseshoe crab migrations and any changes in numbers or behaviors. The data is needed because horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source for migrating shorebirds. If the horseshoe crab population declined, that could mean fewer birds on the coastline.

Horseshoe crabs come up onto beaches on the nights of the full and new moons. That's a tagging bonanza time for researchers, so extra volunteers are needed to help.

To participate, volunteers should attend one of two training sessions at the Aquarium at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, or Sunday, May 12. They will learn about the natural history of horseshoe crabs, what has been learned so far from the census work, and how to safely tag horseshoe crabs.Volunteers should be in 10th grade or older. Younger children can assist if working with a parent, teacher or guardian.

Tagging sessions at Calf Pasture will take place on selected mornings and evenings later in May and in June.

To sign up or for information, call 203-852-0700, ext. 2352, or e-mail jschnierlein@maritimeaquarium.org.

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