Plants are starting to flower, spotted turtles are moving around and our 2014 field season is in full swing.  Each year we hire a crew of seasonal field assistants to help us conduct all of the field work required by our many and various research and management projects.  Our seasonal shorebird monitors have been active out on our beaches for the past month and they introduced themselves a few weeks ago.

Science Staff checking out the ocean at Tuppancy Links

Science Staff checking out the ocean at Tupancy Links

In addition to our shorebird monitors, we have 2 full time Ecology and Botany Field Assistants and 1 amazing part-time volunteer helping out with all of our other projects. Katherine Culatta and Andee Brendalen will be working as our Seasonal Field Assistants and they will be helped out by our volunteer Sara Mack.  These guys will be working on a variety of projects throughout the field season from tracking spotted turtles, to documenting rare plants, to treating invasive species, to monitoring forest composition and a whole lot of other projects.  They will be with us all season and you might see them out on NCF properties, so please say hi!

Katherine Culatta

Katherine with yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)

Katherine with yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)

Originally from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, I am thrilled to have the beautiful island of Nantucket as my introduction to coastal ecology.   I hold a BS in Biology and a BA in Art from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where I first discovered my love for all things botanical.  While at UNC-Asheville, I worked on a variety of projects with the botany research group, including invasive species control, monitoring and mapping of threatened plant populations, and writing a plant identification guide for beginning botany students.  My undergraduate research project examined the effects of decreased cloud immersion on the physiology of high-elevation rock outcrop specialist plants.

Ready for an adventure and a change of scenery, I am excited to be working for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation this field season.  I love the challenge of a new habitat with new plants and I am especially looking forward to broadening my experience with environmental monitoring and animal biology through the NCF water salinity and Spotted Turtle projects.  Land conservation and stewardship are of extreme importance in our ever-changing world, and I feel lucky to get to experience the inner workings and day-to-day operations of a vital and successful conservation organization.

When I’m not botanizing, I enjoy bird watching, hiking, quilting, and drawing.  I look forward to learning all I can about the natural and cultural world of Nantucket!

 Andee Brendalen

Andee with black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Andee with black cherry (Prunus serotina)

I was born in New Mexico, grew up in Ohio, went to college in Vermont, and am working on Nantucket for the summer.  Ten years ago you could not have told me that my life would take me to such different and beautiful places as it has.  I grew up playing tennis and riding horses in Ohio and did not see an ocean until the age of 12!  Now, on Nantucket I see and work with it every day and can see why some people come here and never leave- ‘they get sand in their shoes’ as they say.

At the University of Vermont, I studied environmental science and really took a liking to anything having to do with botany and ecology.  I think I am in some version of heaven when I am working with my supervisor in a coastal heathland/grassland searching for a rare species called, Blue-eyed grass.  I look up from the beautiful plants only to look out onto the ocean and the blue sky with the ocean breeze gently blowing in my face. Sometimes I just have to smile and think how lucky I am.   I have the opportunity to learn about these amazing and rare habitats that the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and the other conservation organizations on the island are working to protect for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.

I decided my sophomore year in college that I wanted to work outside or at least for an organization dedicated to conservation and teaching others about nature and protecting open space in a time when it seems we need as much as we can get.  Since then I have worked on an organic farm, studied groundwater/phosphorous pollution, tested soil and water, worked as an ecology assistant at the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, and now as a field assistant for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.  Now more than ever, I adore every part of the work I am doing in the name of land conservation.  Even the tedious and sometimes disappointing tasks on which I am working make me feel that I am doing my little part to protect what I love and also get to share it with everyone who enjoys these lands that the NCF manages.

When I am not looking for spotted turtles or working on a rare species inventory, I am likely reading, cooking, or taking a beautiful walk somewhere on the island!

Sara Mack, Volunteer

Sara holding a painted turtle found at Medouie

Sara holding a painted turtle found at Medouie

I am delighted to have the opportunity to volunteer with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation on the beautiful island of Nantucket. Lucky for me, I can call Nantucket my home. I can attribute my interest in the natural world to my childhood on Nantucket in which I developed a close relationship with the ocean. When I was just a toddler, my dad and I would go for walks at Quaise Beach and I would ride along in a backpack. I was fascinated by horseshoe crabs and would yell “Shoo shoo crab!” and kick until my father let me down so that I could inspect them. They have been my favorite animal since.

I had the chance to help Dr. Sarah Oktay at the UMass Field Station on Nantucket and to intern at the local aquarium while I was in high school. I was introduced to local marine-related and environmental issues at an early age, such as the decline of eelgrass beds in the harbor and the subsequent decline in bay scallop populations. Now I am going into my senior year at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida to wrap up my undergraduate degree in Marine Science with a focus in Biology. No matter how far I am from Nantucket, the island is still relevant and comes up in my studies. This past year I did a project on the effect of the proposed Cape Cod wind farm on the harbor porpoise population in the Nantucket Sound. During my undergraduate time, I have helped with turtle sampling in the natural springs of Florida, dabbled in wetland mitigation and gone on research cruises in Tampa Bay to collect samples for trace metal and water quality analysis. In January, I was lucky enough to spend the month abroad in Micronesia diving at some of the top sites in the world.

While my primary interest is that of marine life, I have come to realize with experience just how important conservation is. I am grateful to spend time volunteering with NCF and gaining experience in the field, which feels more like my backyard. Lately I have been trekking through the Medouie marsh tracking spotted turtles, marking the rare blue-eyed grass at Smooth Hummocks and assisting shorebird monitors. In the future, I can see myself teaching or working within the realm of environmental education/marine conservation. In my free time during the summer I like to venture in my family’s boat, go for bike rides, visit Tuckernuck Island and explore all of Nantucket’s secret natural places.


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!