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Irwin Wang

Posted on June 15, 2022 at 12:42 am

Irwin Wang

As a young child, one of my earliest experiences with nature happened at the University of Delaware`s annual coast day. As I walked through various exhibits and explored the activities, one weird creature stood out, the horseshoe crab. At first, these creatures looked scary, and their dark color hard shells looked uninviting. The spiky shell and the pointy tail seemed frightening to me. However, I was intrigued. When the presenter talked about the
various roles horseshoe crabs played in our ecosystem, I became more curious about those “creepy” creatures. What characteristics allowed this creature to survive for millions of years, and why did we need to protect them? With encouragement from my parents, I conquered my fear and got to interact with the horseshoe crabs. As I felt the cool water running through my fingers and the smooth shell of the horseshoe crab touching my skin, my fear immediately disappeared. This experience has profoundly changed my perspectives on nature and organisms and spurred my interest in understanding how each organism connects with one another.

As a middle schooler, I gained a deeper understanding of horseshoe crabs and the connections they create in our society. For example, horseshoe crabs play an essential role to ensure our vaccines and medication are safe to use. The blood of horseshoe crabs contains Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL). When LAL is exposed to bacteria toxins, it
coagulates immediately. Thus, the biomedical industry uses horseshoe crab blood to test whether vaccines and medication were contaminated by bacteria. In my family, my grandfather depended on many injected drugs to help him fight infections. Although he lost his battle with bacterial infections eight years ago, it made me appreciate how valuable horseshoe crabs are for our healthcare and the possibilities of other organisms could affect
our lives. Not only do we humans depend on horseshoe crabs, but so do other organisms like migratory birds. The migratory birds feed on the eggs of horseshoe crab during their migrating journey. The eggs provide rich energy for the birds, so over time, those migratory birds have changed their life cycle to match the spawning season of the horseshoe crabs. Furthermore, the commercial fishing industry also harvests horseshoe crabs and uses them
as bait to catch eels and whelk. Therefore, this ancient creature is vitally important for our society and for ecosystems.

Now as a high schooler, I love learning about all kinds of science, especially how organisms contributed to scientific discoveries and processes. My passion for science and nature has led me to volunteer at Hagley Museum and to join the Delaware Teen Science Café hosted by the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science. I helped create events that connected local scientists to teach teenagers about science, technology, and nature. I am specifically proud of the event featuring lanternflies. During that event, many teenagers (including me) learned so much about how lanternflies impact our local ecosystem, how lanternflies disrupt the web of nature in a dramatic way, and how we can help reduce the impact caused by lanternflies.

Over these years, I am grateful for my experience with horseshoe crabs as they have inspired me to do things I would have never thought I would have done. I have realized how critical biodiversity is, not only for the sake of organisms depending on each other but how each organism has its own niche and how we can learn and benefit from the millions of years of evolution and incorporate them into our society. One of my biggest takeaways was learning to appreciate nature wherever I go, whether in parks, woods, or around my neighborhood. My personal experiences with horseshoe crabs have brought me closer to nature and inspired me to encourage other people to connect with nature and appreciate the wonders around them.


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