Thomas Carmichael, a rising eighth-grader at Phillips Preparatory, traveled to Hong Kong and Qinzhou and Beihai in southeast China to attend the 4th International Workshop on Science and Conservation of horseshoe crabs this summer.
The workshop brings together scientists, government officials, managers, conservationists and students from all over the world to share research and learn about horseshoe crab ecology and conservation. Thomas was one of 28 students in attendance, most of whom were college or graduate level, and was the only middle school student.
At the workshop Thomas presented the results of a study he did in collaboration with a researcher at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. His poster, titled: “Airsoft science: A test of horseshoe crab molt durability,” won one of three Best Poster awards at the closing ceremony.
The project tested how the molts that horseshoe crabs shed as they grow might be affected by environmental stress. Thomas simulated mechanical stress by using an airsoft rife to shoot a projectile pellet at molts of different sizes. This information is important to scientists because molts are sometimes used to understand population demographics — how many animals of a certain size are in a population and how they grow — when live animals are not available for study. This approach is valuable in areas like Alabama and parts of Asia where horseshoe crab populations are sparse or in areas difficult to access.