What is the connection between living fossils and a living person?

Heather Bring loves the ocean. Born in Hawaii, she has felt connected to the ocean her whole life. She says it brings her peace and healing, and she is correct on both counts.

“Horseshoe crabs are especially important to me because their blood could actually one day save my life, or may have already saved my life,” she said in our interview.

Horseshoe crab blood forms the base for Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) testing, which can detect tiny amounts of bacterial endotoxins. LAL tests are used on medical devices so that physicians know that the devices they implant in patients like Heather are free from infectious agents.

Heather spoke with us at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, where she volunteers in various capacities. She is part of their animal rescue program, helping injured or stranded marine life to get healthy enough to be returned to the wild. She helps with periodic beach clean-ups organized by the aquarium, and she also volunteers at programs hosted at the aquarium itself. Her love for the sea and its creatures dates before her knowledge of LAL testing, but it is safe to say that love has deepened with her understanding of how the ocean contributes directly to her health.

For Heather, marine conservation and wildlife rescue will always be personal. Like it was with a seal that ended up in Mystic’s care a while ago.

“While I was healing from a brain surgery, he was also healing from that same sort of injury,” Heather said. “And it was just so inspiring to see this little seal have so much positivity and excitement, even though he was going through this horrible injury. And to be able to then take him to the beach and release that animal, it’s huge, not just their healing, but my healing also. It helps me so much.”

In this video, Heather discusses her work with the aquarium, her knowledge of horseshoe crabs’ role in her medical care, and her service dog Marea. Thanks to Mystic Aquarium and their corporate partners like Charles River, ocean lovers like Heather can contribute directly to the protection of marine ecosystems.