Island Science

Harmful Algal Blooms
Island Science

Danger in the Blooms

When I was a kid, the first movie I ever saw in 3D was The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie was from 1954, but in the 1980s the VHS tape was released, and we all had the special glasses. It was fun in the watching and seemed sort of ridiculous. However, as a 7-year-old, it instilled a fear of freshwater in me that was hard to shake. I wouldn’t go into a pool or lake for the rest of the summer without thinking about the swamp man.

lone star tick
Island Science

Ticks on the Hunt

I first encountered Lone Star ticks on Tuckernuck Island in 2015. I had one adult female hitchhike back to Nantucket on me, and I reported it to Tick Report. At the time, it was only the second report from Nantucket, with many more known from Tuckernuck Island. Of course, birds fly easily from one island to another, and deer swim. It was just a matter of time before Nantucket and all of its available habitat became the next place for Lone Star ticks to populate.

Island Science

Summer Magic

Ladybug season is upon us! As May rolls into June, we are at peak observation time for our myriad of ladybug species—when the larvae change into the adult stage we know and love. And even though it’s not unusual to see a ladybug around the island, it’s still a bit of summer magic to spot one.

Lady Slippers
Island Science

Look Out for Lady Slippers

It’s the time of year to hunt for one of my favorite spring flowers. No, not to pick, but to view and enjoy in the wild. The Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid (or Lady Slipper Orchid), Cypripedium acaule, is emerging now in time to flower around Memorial Day. As the name implies, Lady Slipper Orchid flowers look like elegant pink ballet slippers. Of course, being a New England native orchid, these plants are much hardier that their delicate appearance implies. The Lady Slipper orchid is a hardy perennial that is able to withstand the brutal New England winters underground. The leaves emerge in springtime (usually early to mid-May) with the flowers visible late May to early June.

Eastern tent caterpillars
Island Science

For the Love of a Caterpillar

Spring seems to have finally arrived on the island. The Spring Equinox on March 19 officially marked the start of spring, but we all know not to be suckered in by those arbitrary dates. Traditionally, spring is marked more by the indicators of the changing season. It could be the Daffodil Festival which holds to the calendar date of the last weekend of April. Or it could be something more attuned to the spring climate: blooming forsythia, calling of spring peepers, and migratory birds arriving from their winter stays.
Do you have a favorite sign of spring?

Island Science

Fighting the SPB

With our changing climate, one impact we are currently experiencing is our island is becoming hospitable to new and different species. Warmer winters, fewer cold snaps, and hotter, drier summers are welcoming a suite of new species. As some species expand their ranges into new territories, they may have little effect on the surrounding ecosystem. Other species have the potential to cause ecological and economic harm – a true invasive. The Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) is our newest Nantucket visitor wreaking havoc and causing harm to our native pitch pine stands.

Island Science

Love for the Much Maligned

Now that it is officially fall on Nantucket, we can start celebrating the “spooky season.” As I am writing this, fall has just begun. But autumn moves quickly on Nantucket. Throughout September we feel the “Second Summer” vibes. Early October can even have mild days. But then suddenly, the winds pick up, the rain falls, and decorative gourd season descends.

Island Science

It Takes a Village

September is Climate Change Awareness Month, a proclamation adopted by the Nantucket Select Board in 2020. But what does that mean for the island and our community? As an island, most of us are “aware” of climate change already. Discussions of storm surge, sea level rise, and erosion will get you a response at any island gathering place. Where the most vulnerable areas are is no longer a conversation just for the experts. Everyone has been affected by flooded roads, loss of beach access due to erosion, or boat cancellations due to frequent winter storms.

puss moth caterpillar
Island Science

Cute and Fuzzy and Very Toxic

Back in 2005, when I was a field assistant with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, I spent many days in the heathlands on my hands and knees recording vegetation—an integral part of our research. One early fall day, as I placed my hand on the ground, a severe pain generating from the palm of my hand pulsed up through my arm. Looking back at the spot where my hand had been I expected to see a shard of glass or a giant rose thorn. None of the above. I had just squished a puss moth caterpillar with my palm.