By Caiti DiMaria
I grew up on New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, splitting my time between Millville and Port Norris, New Jersey. I know that at some point I experienced the horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird migration, but I can’t tell you when or where. If you were to ask me why I decided to work in wildlife conservation, my answer would make no reference to the magnificent event that happens every year here. In fact, it would be years before I thought about horseshoe crabs and shorebirds again.
770 miles away from the Bay, while sitting in a classroom at Georgia Southern University, I was reintroduced to the phenomenon. We were studying bird migrations and the extraordinary flight of Red Knots was a topic. It was just a few sentences about the distance, the dependence on horseshoe crab eggs, and the connection between declining horseshoe crabs and the plight of Red Knots. But that was all it took. I decided that given the chance, I would not just witness that event, but become involved. So when unforeseeable circumstances brought me back home just months before the spawning and migration, I jumped at the first chance I saw to become involved.
I decided that given the chance, I would not just witness that event, but become involved.
I attended a reTURN the Favor certification workshop at East Point Lighthouse. Taking a chance, I asked if they needed any volunteers for activities above and beyond rescue. As luck would have it, there was a job opening with Celebrate Delaware Bay, an initiative of the WHSRN Executive Office. And I that’s how I found myself in the midst of the conservation efforts of many groups and like-minded individuals.The core of my position was conducting interviews to understand beach visitors’ reactions to youth signs. While out on the beach, I was also able to participate in reTURN the Favor and shorebird banding, gaining hands-on experience with wildlife. But above all, I was able to educate people. People who like my former self, never gave horseshoe crabs and shorebirds a closer look. While out on Fortescue Beach, I spoke with people from all walks of life and age groups about the species I’ve grown to love in this short month. I am hopeful that they will share the Bayshore’s story and help more people connect to the Bayshore’s wildlife. It’s through further connection that the people of New Jersey’s Bayshore will be able to support conservation efforts.