The Ecological Research & Development Group (ERDG), founded in 1995, is a 501(c)3 non-profit wildlife conservation organization whose primary focus is the conservation of the worlds four remaining horseshoe crab species.
Our mission is to seek solutions that prevent or mitigate damage to native wildlife populations and habitats due to human activities. ERDG accomplishes this goal through scientific research & development, environmental planning & management, and public education. ERDG works to inspire and assist individuals, communities and organizations to solve problems, change behaviors and promote sound decisions in order to achieve sustainable ecosystems.
ERDG believes environmental stewardship can thrive within a growing economy through healthy partnerships between industry, government, environmental groups and communities.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Horseshoe Crab Specialist Group:
Founding member and Chair of the “Trade Industry & Use” work group
The Science and Conservation of Horseshoe Crabs:
Founding member and steering committee support for this series of international workshops.
- 2007 International Symposium on the Science and Conservation of Horseshoe Crabs held in New York, USA.
- 2011 International Workshop on the Science and Conservation of Asian Horseshoe Crabs held in Hong Kong.
- 2015 International Workshop on the Science and Conservation of Horseshoe Crabs held in Sasebo City, Nagasaki, Japan.
In the absence of human interference, horseshoe crabs have successfully evolved for over 455 million years. ERDG has made a commitment to protect this remarkable mariner who plays a vital role in nature's delicately balanced food web and whose life-sustaining contributions to humanity have yet to be fully realized. We believe that the foundation of a successful conservation program is effective public education and coastal community support, in conjunction with conservation initiatives, both terrestrial and aquatic, that preserve essential habitat and minimize human impact.
In 1998, ERDG launched its highly successful Just flip 'em!® Program to bring attention to the high mortality horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) incur from being stranded up-side-down during spawning and to encourage, through a simple act of compassion, an appreciation for this remarkable creature who will not survive public indifference.
"The common occurrence of stranded horseshoe crabs during breeding season spurred the Just flip ‘em! ® program on Delaware beaches; beyond this being a ‘humane’ action, the Botton & Loveland (1989) study provides the rationale."
- Dr. Carl N. Shuster, Jr., 1999
In collaborated with scientists from the USGS Biological Resources Division, ERDG actively participates in the annual horseshoe crab spawning survey, designed to compile reliable population data along the shores of Delaware Bay.
The future survival of the world’s four remaining horseshoe crab species will ultimately depend upon the preservation of its spawning habitat — a challenging prospect in light of the ever-increasing human density along the same inland beaches horseshoe crabs have relied upon for thousands of years.
To respond to this challenge, ERDG launched its Backyard Stewardship™ community based horseshoe crab sanctuary program in 1999, designed to encourage coastal communities to declare their shared habitat a horseshoe crab conservation area or sanctuary. On June 13th, 2000, then Delaware Governor Thomas Carper visited Broadkill Beach, Delaware to recognize this community for working with ERDG in establishing Delaware’s first community based horseshoe crab sanctuary.
ERDG is the only organization that has been successful in convincing residential landowners to designate their private beaches as horseshoe crab sanctuaries. In addition to Broadkill Beach, ERDG has also enrolled the Delaware bayshore communities of Pickering Beach, Kitts Hummock, Slaughter Beach, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Fowler Beach), Prime Hook Beach and Camp Arrowhead on Rehoboth Bay. ERDG has also enrolled the New Jersey bayshore communities of Fortescue, Gandy’s Beach and Money Island. ERDG is currently working to establish additional horseshoe crab conservation areas within communities throughout the Atlantic Coast of the United States. To date over 16 miles of prime horseshoe crab spawning habitat has been protected through this program. Ultimately, our goal is to protect the horseshoe crab spawning habitat throughout out the species spawning range worldwide.
Get more information and find out how you can participate in ERDG’s Backyard Stewardship® program.
In 2009 ERDG launched an initiative to bring awareness to the growing threat to the three Asian horseshoe crab species (and ultimately the American horseshoe crab) as a result of excessive and lethal harvesting practices by the endotoxin detection industry engaged in the production of Tachypleus amoebocyte lycate (TAL). In 2011 ERDG shared these concerns with the attendees of the International Workshop on the Science and Conservation of Asian Horseshoe Crabs and again in 2013 to the pharmaceutical industry via a webinar.
In 2015 ERDG authored a peer reviewed paper titled “Current Horseshoe Crab Harvesting Practices Cannot Support Global Demand for TAL/LAL: The Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries’ Role in the Sustainability of Horseshoe Crabs” which was published by Springer Publishing Company in a book titled “Changing Global Perspectives on Horseshoe Crab Biology, Conservation and Management.”
To further delineate the problems outlined in this paper and to raise awareness of the possible implications for the global health industry, and provide tools to promote communication regarding how the pharmaceutical industry can become a driving force behind the conservation of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, the “Protecting Health” section was developed.
ERDG was responsible for initiating the first study to test the effectiveness of bait bags in reducing the demand on horseshoe crabs as bait in the conch fishery. ERDG working with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and a select group of Virginia conch fishermen, demonstrated that bait needs could be reduced by half without a measurable loss in catch if placed within a bait bag. This is possible because bait bags significantly reduces secondary predation on the bait. With a coast-wide harvest of horseshoe crabs as bait exceeding 3.5 million animals annually, a potential reduction of 50 percent represents a significant conservation measure and one that ERDG will work to see adopted throughout the industry. As a result of this study the state of Virginia now requires the use of bait bags throughout its conch fishery. Continuing our goal to see the use of bait bags throughout the conch fishery, which extends from Virginia to Massachusetts, ERDG has distributed free of charge over 15,000 bait bags to conch fishermen along the Atlantic Coast. In addition to our bait bag initiative, ERDG is conducting research on alternative baits.
- Alternative Gear and Supplemental Bait Workshop, March 3, 2004 (pdf)
- Decrease in Crabs Raises Concerns
- ERDG completes Phase II of its bait bag initiative
- Horseshoe Crab Bait Bags are adopted by the Virginia Conch Fishery
- ERDG begins Phase I of its Bait Bag Initiative
- Alternative Bait Workshop (minutes)
We strive through our educational programs to create an atmosphere of learning that will both inspire and nurture curiosity about the world’s four remaining horseshoe crabs species and their habitat. The success of our horseshoe crab education programs and conservation initiatives have received national recognition as well as support from the Governors of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
We believe that our web site is a key component in overcoming public indifference and promoting sound conservation initiatives. It is our goal to develop this site into the worlds definitive source of information on the four remaining horseshoe crab species. The awards we have received to date would indicate that we are well on our way towards achieving our objective.
Our annual student contest, which encompasses poems, tales and images, has received broad participation from students throughout the Atlantic Coast. Through art, our future environmental stewards have a voice. Our ultimate goal is to engage students around the world and encourage them to express their appreaciation for this remarkable creature through their art.
Our in-school workshop uses the art and science of paper-making as a vehicle for learning about horseshoe crabs. These classroom visits are designed to introduce students to the many wonders of horseshoe crabs. Looking briefly into the history, physiology and social/economic aspects of this amazing creature we strive to awaken student curiosity and motivate children to learn more about Limulus polyphemus.
For more information, see our In-School Program.
Horseshoe Crab Model:
ERDG developed the worlds first museum grade model of a female horseshoe crab. Not only is her exterior surfaces complete in every detail, the top separates from the bottom to reveal the internal organs, egg distribution and circulatory system. Our model, which complements the Anatomy section of our website, is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of horseshoe crab classroom education. It not only permits the study of the horseshoe crab throughout the year, but also provides an internal view never before available.
Horseshoe Crab Natural History Brochures:
The quality of our horseshoe crab natural history brochures has lead to requests from public libraries, school programs, tourist centers, state parks, federal refuges and the eco-tourism industry. Our goal is to keep our educational materials freely available and widely distributed throughout the spawning range of the world's four remaining horseshoe crab species.
Active Public Education Schedule:
ERDG maintains an active public education schedule — visiting schools, universities, civic groups, clubs and attending community functions. We believe that in order to gain support for horseshoe crab conservation, one must listen to the concerns of the community, establish trust, and form working partnerships. This takes time and must be constantly reinforced.
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ERDG has helped wildlife rehabilitators, industry, and state and federal agencies develop response equipment, processes and protocols to prevent or mitigate impact to wildlife from oil spills. Our years of experience in oiled wildlife incident response, research and development are particularly relevant to our horseshoe crab shorebird conservation initiatives. Many of the world's remaining horseshoe crab spawning sites and migratory shorebird stop-overs are vulnerable to the effects of oil contamination.
The Delaware Bay, second largest oil-shipping channel in the United States, is home to the world's largest concentration of horseshoe crabs. The Bay is also a vital rest and refueling stop for hundreds of thousands of migrating North American shorebirds. The effects of an oil spill in this body of water during spring shorebird migration and horseshoe crab spawning could be devastating.
In 1999, ERDG introduced governmental agencies responsible for oil spill contingency planning in the mid-Atlantic region to the importance of developing protocols to protect or mitigate damage to the Atlantic horseshoe crab species, Limulus polyphemus. Once in place, these plans will complement existing protocols designed to protect migrating shorebirds in the Delaware Bay.
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ERDG has developed an international network of professionals with whom it consults on a wide variety of issues. As each project evolves, ERDG assembles a multi-disciplinary team of individuals whose skill levels and training backgrounds are best suited to solving the current problem. This case-by-case approach assures that the best possible talent is utilized to accomplish a project’s goals. Because each team is assembled on an as-needed basis, the majority of ERDG's financial resources are directed to the project at hand and not expended on maintaining a large full-time staff.
Board of Directors
Glenn Gauvry, ERDG President
ERDG Inc. Little Creek, DE
Lillian Rippa, Artist
ERDG Chairman, Smyrna, DE
Joyce Ponsell, Ornithologist
ERDG Secretary, Mount Joy, PA
Gary Kreamer, Aquatic Education Specialist
DNREC, Aquatic Resources Education Center, DE
Michael Oates, President
302 Stories, Wilmington, DE
Ariane Múller, Wildlife Photographer
Vice President, Society of German Nature Photographers
Winnie Radolin, Artist
W.Clement Smith, President
Clement Global Options Inc., Philadelphia, PA
Kion Yap, CEO
Bart and Associates Inc., Mclean, VA
Dr. Carl N. Shuster Jr., Marine Scientist
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, VA
Dr. Mark Bottom, Professor of Biology
Fordham College, New York, NY
Dr. Jane Brockmann, Professor of Zoology
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Dr. David R. Smith, Biological Statistician
USGS Leetown Science Center, Kearneysville, WV
Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael, Senior Marine Scientist
Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL
Dr. Anil Chatterji, Marine Biologist
Government Research Institution, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Dr. Paul Shin, Marine Scientist, Associate Professor
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Dr. Chang-Po Chen, Research Fellow
Biodiversity Research Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Dr. Jayant Kumar Mishra, Associate Professor
Pondichery University, Port Blair, Andamans, India
Dr. Annie Christianus, Marine Biologist
University Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
Dr. Jaime Zaldivar Rae, Biologist
National Autonomous University, Mexico
Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort and Aquarium
Sasebo City, Japan
National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
Ocean Park Conservation Foundation
Kate Maskar, President
Maskar Design, Philadelphia, PA
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico