The Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative (NBI) just held its 8th Biennial Biodiversity Research Conference from November 1-3, and the Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department staff ecologists were active participants in this collaborative effort. The NBI is a partnership of nonprofit organizations (including the Foundation), academic institutions, government agencies, businesses and individuals that formed in 2005 with a mission to conserve the native biodiversity of Nantucket through collaborative research, monitoring and education.

Jen Karberg introduces Keynote Speaker Constance Rinoldo of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Photo: Karen Beattie.

Every other year, the Biodiversity Research Conference provides a venue to showcase research projects funded by NBI’s annual Small Research Grants Program as well as locally-based projects undertaken by island scientists. The conference kicked off on Friday, November 1st with a workshop and Keynote Lecture featuring Constance Rinaldo, who presented about resources and contributions to research provided by the Biodiversity Heritage Library ( This online resource aims to improve research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.

Sarah Bois from the Linda Loring Nature Foundation (current NBI Chair), Jen Karberg from the Nantucket Conservation Foundation (conference co-chair), Kim Botelho from the Maria Mitchell Association, Emily Goldstein Murphy (NBI Treasurer and conference co-chair) and Karen Beattie from the Nantucket Conservation Foundation (conference co-chair) during a break at the conference. Photo: Burton Balkind/Kindflow.

On Saturday, November 2nd, the full day conference took place featuring 13 oral and 8 poster presentations covering a wide range of biodiversity-related topics, including oyster reef restoration, freshwater stream macroinvertebrates, neglected herbivorous insects, pond breeding frog larval development and American burying beetle carrion resources, among many others. A total of 93 people from both on and off island registered for the conference this year.

Two members of the Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department staff gave oral presentations at the conference. Danielle O’Dell discussed our northern long-eared bat research, including the natural history of bats on Nantucket and possible reasons why our island population has thus far not been impacted by White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that has decimated mainland populations of this species across its range to the point of endangerment.

Danielle O’Dell presents on her Northern Long-eared Bat research. Photo: Burton Balkind/Kindflow.

Libby Buck presented on horseshoe crab natural history and populations trends over a ten-year period, as determined by annual spawning surveys conducted by the Foundation and the Maria Mitchell Association. At Warren’s Landing in Madaket Harbor, which is surveyed by the Foundation, numbers of spawning crabs have shown an overall dramatic increase since monitoring commenced.

Libby Buck presents on horseshoe crab population trends on Nantucket. Photo: Jen Karberg.

The entire science department collaborated on a poster summarizing the Foundation’s plans to develop and undertake a watershed level wetland restoration project at Windswept Cranberry Bog, which was retired from cranberry cultivation in 2018. Jen Karberg and Karen Beattie were conference co-chairs and also co-authors on a poster reporting the efforts of the Sandplain Grassland Network, a regional research and management partnership. Additionally, Kelly Omand (conference poster session coordinator) and Libby Buck were co-authors on a poster reporting island-wide collaborative efforts to control invasive plant species across Nantucket. The conference wrapped up with a post-conference social on Saturday evening followed by a natural history field trip on Sunday morning to the Foundation’s Squam Swamp and Squam Farm properties, led by Peter Brace of Nantucket Walkabout.

Foundation Science and Stewardship staff ecologists Libby Buck, Karen Beattie, Jen Karberg, Danielle O’Dell and Kelly Omand. Photo: Kristen Bullett.

The entire cost of holding the conference was generously underwritten by the Community Foundation for Nantucket’s ReMain Nantucket Fund, which allowed the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative to earmark 100% of the conference proceeds to its Small Research Grants Program. Conference proceeds from participant registrations, donations and sales of water bottles, Yeti coffee mugs and door prize tickets totaled $4,081, which will all be used to fund future biodiversity research on Nantucket. Since the Foundation is the largest conservation land owner on the island, many of these projects will likely take place on our properties and thus enhance our overall understanding of the many unique resources under our care and stewardship.

The Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative is a collaboration including the following partner organizations, academic institutions, government agencies and businesses: Linda Loring Nature Foundation, Maria Mitchell Association, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Nantucket Conservation Foundation, Nantucket Islands Land Bank Commission, Nantucket Land Council, Nantucket Memorial Airport, Nantucket Walkabout, The Trustees, Tuckernuck Land Trust, Town of Nantucket Department of Natural Resources, and UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station.

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us now!