by Dr. Sarah Treanor Bois
Director of Research & Education at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation
For many people on Nantucket—visitors and year-rounders—when asked why they love the island, they answer by talking about the natural beauty, open spaces, and bountiful moorlands. The historic charm of our downtown may be enough for some, but it’s escaping the hustle and bustle of town and getting into the open conservation lands that really enchants people.
We are fortunate on Nantucket to have more than half of the island preserved as open space, with multiple organizations serving as stewards of these lands. Each organization has its own unique mission and activities supporting that mission.
In an effort to bring like organizations together to share their work and also to collaborate on island-wide projects, the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative was created in 2003. As its mission states, the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative (NBI) seeks to “conserve the native biodiversity of Nantucket, Tuckernuck, Muskeget and surrounding waters through collaborative research, monitoring, and education.” NBI is a collaboration of nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, businesses, and individuals who work collaboratively on biodiversity of our island system (nantucketbiodiversity.org).
This June, the NBI is again hosting one of their signature events— the Science Showcase. This event, held during even years for NBI, highlights the biodiversity research and conservation work of island partners. Member organizations design field trips and workshops showcasing research around our island.
Sharing this work with the Nantucket community is a primary goal for NBI: education is an important part of its mission. The free events are held at a range of island locations: from upland grasslands to freshwater marshes, and includes harbor explorations, rare species conservation, and invasive species eradication. There is something for everyone to participate in.
“For the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, the Science Showcase is a handson experience NBI uses to bring the public out into the field where biologists and other scientists are researching species of life on the island and in its waters. While each of Nantucket’s conservation nonprofits report on their research efforts in their newsletters, in newspaper articles and during various lecture series throughout the year, there’s absolutely nothing like walking out into the island wilderness and seeing our natural world through the eyes of those who study it,” said Peter Brace, co-chair of the Science Showcase Event and the guide and owner of Nantucket Walkabout, an NBI partnering business.
So, how can you be involved?
The week of activities begins Monday, June 6 at 6pm with the keynote talk at the Nantucket Atheneum, downtown at 1 India Street. Ben Goulet-Scott and Jacob Suissa will be co-presenting a talk entitled Let’s Botanize: Democratizing Plant Biology. Both speakers recently completed their PhDs at Harvard in the department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and, in 2020, they started Let’s Botanize, a social media-based science communication series using plant life to teach about ecology, evolution, and biodiversity. Their goal is to create educational content that is accessible and entertaining without compromising on scientific rigor. You can find their content on Instagram @letsbotanize and on TikTok. Their talk is free and open to the public in the Atheneum’s Great Hall.
On Tuesday, June 7 at 9am, you can be one of the first to explore a new property with the Linda Loring Nature Foundation. The recently acquired landscape is adjacent to the original LLNF property consisting of freshwater wetlands, sandplain grasslands, and a former cranberry bog. This will be an exciting opportunity since this spot is currently closed to the public. Also on Tuesday (at 12:30pm), the Nantucket Conservation Foundation is hosting a field trip to explore a novel salt marsh restoration and oyster reef resilience project—the first of its kind in the state!
There are opportunities to participate in invasive plant identification and removal. The Nantucket Land Bank is hosting a trail walk at the Head of the Plains, where they will focus on various methods of management for grasslands and other early successional habitats. The Maria Mitchell Association will bring participants to the water with Aquarium Director Jack Dubinsky for a survey of invasive European green crabs. You’ll learn about the impacts of green crabs on eelgrass biodiversity and learn about ways to use green crabs as fishing bait and for food. Yum!
This is only a few of the amazing events scheduled. There’s even a harbor cruise to learn more about our local marine biodiversity. Visit the NBI website nantucketbiodiversity.org/science-showcase for the up-to-date and complete schedule and to register for the events you want to attend.
Learning from those of us “in the trenches” or pursuing conservation work is what makes the Science Showcase week so unique. Instead of hearing the perspective of just one group, you can learn from a suite of professionals in a fiveday period. It’s also a great chance to ask questions of people from the various organizations. What have you always wanted to know?
Dr. Jen Karberg of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation is the current Chair of the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative. She notes: “NBI brings together researchers from on- and off-island to collaborate on research questions important to Nantucket. The Science Showcase event is a fabulous program that allows us to highlight all of that research in a way the public can interact with. This event is how NBI connects our research work to the island and the people who live here and work here.”