Each field season (~May-October), the Science and Stewardship Department of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation welcomes seasonal field assistants to help us do all manner of ecological field work. Our field assistants are often on Nantucket for the first time, coming from various different places around the country. Come meet and learn a little about this year’s field assistants. And if you see them out on our properties tracking turtles or checking crab traps or surveying rare plants – say hi!
Meet Nick Dunham!
I’m incredibly excited to be spending my summer working as an ecological field assistant
for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. Island life isn’t unfamiliar to me, as I grew up in a
small island town called Deer Isle, Maine. Ever since I was a kid, you could find me outside
looking for animals. I would spend hours looking for snakes and salamanders under logs, going
to ponds to find frogs and turtles, and watching the birds at the feeder. My father is a
lobsterman, so I got to spend many of my summers working with him on his boat. I always
enjoyed seeing all of the seabirds and the marine life that would be in his lobster traps. My
interests in animals were ever-growing and I wanted to learn as much as I could. As I got older,
I started to learn more about the complexities of wildlife ecology and conservation and I knew
this was the path I wanted to take.
I studied at the University of Maine, where I received a B.S. in wildlife ecology. My main
research interests are reptiles and wildlife-habitat relationships. My time as a student introduced
me to field research, ecological management and conservation, and the fun and challenges that
go with them. As a student, I was an intern at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, where I got
to experience a wide array of ecological practices such as invasive plant monitoring, bird
mist-netting and banding, and acoustic bat monitoring. After graduation, I accepted a position
working on a research project in New Mexico on rattlesnake hybrid behavior and predator-prey
dynamics with rattlesnakes and desert rodents. These positions allowed me to work with some
incredible researchers, travel to new places, work with some amazing plants and animals, and
continue to grow on my journey to become a wildlife ecologist.
Working for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation has been incredible, and I couldn’t
ask for a better group of conservationists to work with. Nantucket is home to a wide diversity of
ecosystems with a new set of plants and animals for me to see. Some of my favorite
experiences so far have been trapping and tracking spotted turtles at Windswept Bog, as well
as the midnight horseshoe crab surveys on the beach at Warren’s Landing. I’m looking forward
to all of the great experiences this summer and to be a part of the great research and
conservation going on at NCF.
Meet Chase Mathey!
Growing up in Wisconsin, I was surrounded by dense forests to hike, soggy swamps and bogs to explore, and countless lakes and rivers to canoe. I was always crawling around in the woods looking at the forest floor collecting leaves and flowers and rocks and bugs (and always getting poison ivy!). Plants have always held a special place in my heart, and as soon as I learned they all have names, I had to know and meet them all. By the time I entered middle school, I could tell you the name of every flower and tree that was on our little 5-acre wooded property in rural central Wisconsin.
Seasons change and teenagers are moody, so naturally, I became more interested in art and music when I was in high school, after which I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota to study photography, sculpture, and geography at the University of Minnesota. I then moved to New York City where I worked in the music industry for several years. After a few years of working at record labels and tour managing bands, I decided to re-explore my love of plants. I packed my bags and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to go to school at Louisiana State University for a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource and Ecology Management with a concentration in Ecological Restoration. While in school, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant in a freshwater ecology lab doing water quality monitoring in the Atchafalaya River Basin as well as stream habitat surveys for species of concern such as the blue nose shiner, frecklebelly madtom, and the Louisiana pearlshell mussel. I also spent a considerable amount of time working and volunteering at LSU’s Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium helping with the organization and digitization of their plant specimen collection and measuring flower parts on South American Centropogon specimens for a research project on hummingbird pollination. I worked for a year and a half with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a Botany Technician working on a long-term experiment testing different management strategies to rehabilitate remnant parcels of coastal prairie on active cattle ranches. While there I helped build a species checklist of all vascular plants that occur on Louisiana coastal prairie.
I am very excited to be on Nantucket and working with NCF! There are so many beautiful and interesting habitats squished onto this small island; it will be a treat to explore them all, especially the sandplain grasslands, coastal heathlands, and bogs. We have been becoming familiar with many of the NCF properties, especially Windswept Bog, Squam Swamp & Farm, and the Middle Moors. Under the light of the full moon, we have surveyed the horseshoe crabs as they emerge from the depths of the ocean for their annual mating ritual on the shore. We have also been spending a lot of time learning the many native plant species of the island (so many types of berries!). I have had a great time so far, especially with tracking the spotted turtles. I have been naming them as I meet them, the turtle pictured below is Edna.