Surprising Sea Life Finds Its Way into LMS

Did you know that the horseshoe crab has 10 eyes? Also, it isn’t a crab (despite the name), it is a Chelicerata which makes it more closely related to a spider.

This creature is one of the many animals that the director of the Glen Echo aquarium Andrew Wilson brings into Longfellow each year for a lesson on the Chesapeake Bay. Wilson has been visiting schools in  DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and on rare occasions North Carolina for nearly 30 years. Longfellow has been on his schedule every year, except 2020-2021(the year of quarantine). He has been educating young students about aquatics since 1992. He covers everything about aquatics, including the animals, plants, and man-made issues threatening marine life.

“I get to share information about all these different things and help people understand [the animals] better,” said Wilson, sharing his favorite part about the job.

  When he was a kid he couldn’t quite figure out how these animals worked. He remembers being confused by some of their parts, like the horseshoe crab: “I used to think the tail was a nose,” he laughed.  Now he just loves to help people learn about them. 

Wilson has noticed some changes in the bay in the last 30 years, and it’s not all bad.  “The bay has kind of been getting better in the last 30 years,” he said. “We are seeing some days when the water is perfectly clear. Back 30 years ago it wasn’t as common.” 

Part of what’s helping keep the water clean are the grasses that are also increasing in the wetlands. However, it isn’t all good news.  There are also more dead zones caused by too much algae causing the oxygen levels to get low. Low oxygen levels, in turn, cause illness in marine life.  

A young wildtype axolotl. (Photy from Flickr/John_P._Clare NC ND 2.0)

 At home, Mr. Wilson has an axolotl, a dog, and a snake. The axolotl is a type of salamander, it can also regrow limbs! Wilson’s Favorite animal in the bay is the jellyfish.

His favorite animals to teach students about are the seahorse and horseshoe crab, “Even though I could spend about an hour teaching about every animal I bring in,” said Wilson enthusiastically.

 All of the animals Mr. Wilson brings into the classroom are brought in from the Glen Echo Aquarium.  

Even though he’s been doing this for 30 years, he still enjoys seeing the looks of wonder on the faces of students, and maybe even inspiring a few of them to continue their study of marine life.