Brendan & Miranda know how to have a good laugh on & off the job!

Each year, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation hires 2 seasonal field assistants to aid us in the many diversified projects that we do. From surveying rare plants, to trapping small mammals and tracking turtles, these young ecologists work hard and gain valuable diversified research experience to help them establish careers in the biology and ecology field. Let’s meet our 2020 field assistants: Brendan Connolly & Miranda Murray!

Brendan Tracking a Spotted Turtle in Windswept Bog

Brendan Connolly

Conserving vulnerable ecosystems and organisms through scientific research and active management are driving passions that I want to dedicate my life towards. Through my experiences as a seasonal field assistant last year, I saw how every single project that I worked on was directly applicable to conservation; something that I had not experienced to such a degree with other organizations. Not only did I come home every single day feeling like I had directly contributed to the preservation of the island’s ecosystems, but I also always had fun, and significantly broadened my horizons through extensive experiences working with wildlife (snakes, small mammals, and bats, oh my!). Coming back for a second season with NCF was therefore a no-brainer. It has been immensely fulfilling to be working with everyone at NCF again. Rarely do you find an organization where every single member is so driven and passionate about conservation, and I am thrilled to be able to be a part of NCF again.

            This year, I am excited to work on many of the same projects again, as well as get a deeper understanding of the vegetation communities over at Windswept cranberry bogs. If you see me outside holding a giant telemetry antenna, staring at plants, or removing invasives, please stop and say hi, and ask what I’m doing! I love talking about our projects and Nantucket conservation, and would be glad to meet you and hear your thoughts!

Sampling some Huckleberry in our Fecon & Harrow Restoration Plots
Miranda with her first trapped Spotted Turtle

Miranda Murray

Hi all! I am so excited to be joining the Nantucket Conservation Foundation team this season and to work among such talented and committed conservationists. I haven’t been to the island since I was a kid, so it is such a joy to return to this special place with its unique ecosystems and beautiful natural spaces. I am originally from Worcester, MA but, I grew up in Boca Raton, FL. I spent most of my time hiking and kayaking amongst cypress swamps, sawgrass marshes, and hardwood hammocks. Time spent exploring the outdoors instilled in me a deep reverence and fascination with the natural world which has ultimately brought me here today.

I graduated from UNC-Asheville in January with a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. My chief research interests are plant-fungal interactions and parasitic plants. I plan to attend graduate school to study Plant Ecology. My work experience includes water quality monitoring and aquatic macroinvertebrate surveying, environmental education, invasive plant management, and restoration of riparian plant communities in Western North Carolina. I am thrilled to have the chance to contribute to the fascinating research being done by NCF. I am particularly excited by the direct connection the organization’s research has to land management that conserves native plant and animal habitat. With so many looming threats to the natural world, being a part of research that has immediate impacts is very inspiring. So far this season, my favorite project I have had the opportunity to work on is the succession reset project at Head of the Plains near the south shore. Here, NCF is looking at the effects of soil disturbance on the expansion of the globally rare sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands found on Nantucket. I have had so much fun conducting vegetation surveys and monitoring small mammal and insect diversity. This summer I hope to have the chance to explore the diverse plant communities that can be found in NCF properties. I have been blown away by the number of rare species and extraordinary ecosystems packed onto one tiny island! I know at the end of the season I will be leaving the island a better ecologist, with a diverse skillset and so much love for Nantucket.

Miranda happy to be out sampling vegetation in Head of the Plains

Say hello to them if you see them out and about! Their hard work helps NCF continue to churn out publishable research and further our understanding of Nantucket’s ecological balance.

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