Beginning in 2004, the intern program has worked with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and their LiMPETS program (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) over the summer to collect Pacific mole crabs (Emerita analoga), otherwise known as sand crabs, at Ocean Beach.
The two main reasons we participate in this monitoring program are:
We collect and monitor the sand crabs because they are an important link in beach ecosystems; they are prey for shore birds, fish and sea otters. More importantly, sand crabs are intermediate hosts to Acanthocephalan parasites. If the sand crab is infested with parasites and then is consumed by a bird, fish or sea otter, then this new host becomes infected as well, which can lead to death.
Interns get hands-on experience in performing real research, such as collecting and dissecting specimens as well as data entry.
Samples are collected once a week between June and August from the same area on Ocean Beach. We take ten samples from five random transects in this area. If the Interns find any sand crabs, we record the sex and length. After we finish, we pick fifteen sand crabs of varying size and sex to bring back and dissect.
While we are dissecting the sand crabs, we record information such as the size, sex of the crab, where and when it was collected, and how many parasites are found. When we finish dissecting the sand crabs, we send the data to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. They receive data from many other volunteer and school groups. This helps the researchers see the bigger picture and observe long-term changes and trends.