Sacred Heart University Receives Disney Grant For Its Project Limulus

News Story: October 1, 2011

Sacred Heart University has been awarded a grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), in the amount of $24,450, to support its Project Limulus (www.projectlimulus.org ). Project Limulus is a research program investigating the population dynamics of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound.  It is run by Drs. Jennifer Mattei, Mark Beekey and Kirk Bartholomew in the Department of Biology at SHU’s Fairfield campus.

Project Limulus is a collaborative research effort that involves federal, state, nonprofit and community groups while promoting science literacy across all age groups. Over the past 10 years, the team has focused on the genetic diversity of the horseshoe crab population, migration patterns, mating behaviors, assessment of spawning success and ecological links to other species in Long Island Sound.

The overarching goal of Project Limulus is the conservation of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound. To that end, the team provides long-term population monitoring data for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its tag distribution program and for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the annual spawning census. The research is dependent upon trained community volunteers to cover the majority of spawning beaches along the Sound’s coastline.  These annual population dynamic data have helped to convince state wildlife officials to set up several no-harvest zones on both sides of the Sound. 

“Our next management goal is to eliminate the harvest of female horseshoe crabs and align the harvest regulations for the states around Long Island Sound. This is the current practice in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland,” Dr. Mattei said. “In 2012, we intend to launch the ‘Adopt a Beach’ program for children and their teachers from elementary school through high school.  Once teachers are trained, we would like them to visit the same beach every year to tag horseshoe crabs, collect data and conduct in-class data analysis activities.  Teaching science and math by doing science and applying mathematical skills is the best way to learn.”

DWCF awarded $2 million to conservation projects around the globe in 2011, the highest amount ever contributed in a single year. Sacred Heart University is one of nearly 100 grant recipients recognized for helping to preserve habitats, protect endangered species, foster kids’ connections to nature and ensure future generations can enjoy wildlife and wild places.

“This year’s $2 million milestone is a testament to Disney’s commitment to protect the planet and help create connections between kids and nature around the world in 40 countries,” said Dr. Beth Stevens, senior vice president, Disney Corporate Citizenship, Environment & Conservation. “We are grateful to the many scientists, educators and community conservationists who devote their lives to conservation and are very proud to work with our guests, fans, employees and cast members to help ensure a better future for our planet.”

Past support for Project Limulus includes funding from the LIS License Plate Program, CT Sea Grant, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Undergraduate Research and Internship Program of the College of Arts and Sciences at SHU.