Nantucket Field Station


A diverse and beautiful salt marsh with harbor front beach and lovely upland trails, our newest acquisition, is a true jewel. This 110 acre property boasts a beautiful beach, approximately 1 mile of walking trails and great views across the harbor of Coatue. The $20 million commitment to purchase this property from the University of Massachusetts Boston and save it from development was the largest financial undertaking in the Foundation’s history.   Under a unique and mutually beneficial agreement with the University, they maintain a scientific and educational presence while the Foundation permanently protects and manages the remaining acreage in its pristine state.

In addition to its role as an educational facility, the Nantucket Field Station is also one of the most beautiful and ecological diverse areas of the island.  This protected parcel contains harbor beach front, freshwater ponds and salt marsh habitats.  Many native and rare wildlife species utilize these habitats for feeding and breeding. Visitors to the Field Station are likely to see egrets, herons and other wading birds in the marsh, songbirds around the freshwater pond and seabirds from the shoreline.  There is also an active osprey nest located on the property.

One of the most interesting and ecologically valuable natural habitats found on the property is Folger’s Marsh, an extensive salt marsh that lies between Polpis Road and Nantucket Harbor. This site provides important feeding habitat for many species of shorebirds and colonial waterbirds that nest on Nantucket or migrate through the area, stopping to feed on organisms and organic matter found in the damp, spongy peat and mud flats. These include plovers black-crowned night herons, American oystercatchers, snowy and great egrets, and least terns.

The Field Station is located at #180 Polpis Road.  From the Rotary, follow Milestone Road ¼ mile and turn left onto Polpis Road.  Follow Polpis Road 2.7 miles and turn left at #180 which is marked with a Field Station sign. There is ample parking located at 2 locations along the access road.  The property is open from sunrise to sunset and will accommodate groups over 20 people with advance permission from the station manager (508) 228 5268.  There is a portable toilet at the Field Station.

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Because of the twice daily ebbing and flowing of the tide, salt marshes represent one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. Each rising tide brings in a flux of new nutrients and tiny marine organisms that fuel the plants and animals in this unique environment. Many varieties of marine animals that spend their adult lives in the open waters of the harbor, sound, and ocean use salt marshes as “nurseries” for their young. Examples include mollusks, saltwater fish, and crustaceans.

The tide ebbs and flows from Folger’s Marsh through a tidal creek located on the northwestern side of the property. Otherwise, a narrow ridge of sand dunes and beachfront separates the marsh from Nantucket Harbor. Combined with the shoreline that lies at the base of the bluff overlooking the harbor, the Field Station property contains over 2,000 feet of harbor front.

Beaches are dynamic systems, constantly changing as sand is deposited, moved, and eroded in a never-ending cycle. Plants that grow on the open beach are uniquely adapted to this harsh environment. They obtain fresh water by absorbing rainfall and forming deep, penetrating roots. The root systems of beach vegetation serve the important function of holding windblown sand in place, preventing erosion. Species that are common on the Field Station’s beach include American beach grass, dusty miller, and beach pea.

Along the bluff on the northeastern portion of the property is an osprey pole that is actively used during the nesting season. These rare birds of prey feed primarily on fish, and the Field Station is an ideal site for them due to its close proximity to both fresh and salt water. Nesting poles are erected to mimic dead trees, the preferred nesting habitat of this species. Osprey populations reached dangerously low numbers in the 1960’s because of high levels of DDT (a dangerous pesticide that has since been banned) in the food chain. This chemical caused egg shell thinning, which drastically impeded the ability of many birds of prey to successfully reproduce. However, osprey populations have recently made a remarkable comeback, with over 350 pairs now estimated to be nesting in Massachusetts.

The remainder of the Field Station property contains a large freshwater pond, and dense thickets of tall shrubs such as bayberry, arrowwood, beach plum, and shadbush interspersed with pockets of freshwater wetlands. A series of trails traverse the grassy uplands and shrublands on the property. On the west side of the entrance drive, several paths meander across the property and provide excellent vantage points to view the salt marsh and adjacent freshwater cattail marsh, which often provides nesting habitat for northern harriers, a rare bird of prey. On the east side of the entrance drive, a longer trail winds through the shrub thickets along the eastern property edge and eventually comes out on the bluff overlooking the osprey nesting platform and Nantucket Harbor. From here, a path along the bluff heading west provides access to the beach front and adjacent salt marsh.


For more information on the University of Massachusetts Boston Field Station, click here:

For more information about the Jr. Ranger Program at the Field Station please click here:

Purchased by the NCF with contributions from 254 donors, most notably:
Mrs. Walter Beinecke, Jr.
Ms. Clara Bingham
Mr. & Mrs. William C. Cox, Jr.
Ms. Heidi Cox
Mr. Stephen A. Davis
Mr. & Mrs. John H. Davis
Mr. & Mrs. Porter G. Dawson
Mr. & Mrs. James L. Dunlap
Mr. & Mrs. John W. Everets, Jr.
Mr. James Flaws & Ms. Marcia Webber
Mr. & Mrs. George A. Fowlkes
Mr. & Mrs. Charles K. Gifford
Gilbert Verney Foundation
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Mr. Arthur A. Gosnell
Mrs. Thomas H. Gosnell
Mr. & Mrs. Graham Gund
Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Gund
Mr. & Mrs. Edmund A. Hajim
Mr. & Mrs. Julius Jensen III
Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust
Karp Family Foundation
Mr. & Mrs. Peter L. Kellner
Mrs. Carolyn M. Knutson
Mr. & Mrs. Christopher Larsen
Mr. Jonathan Z. Larsen
Mr. & Mrs. Robert R. Larsen
Larsen Fund
Mr. & Mrs. John W. Loose
Dr. & Mrs. Steve Louis
Mr. & Mrs. John G. Macfarlane, III
Mr. & Mrs. Ian R. MacKenzie
Mr. & Mrs. Richard L. Menschel
Mr. & Mrs. William C. Miller, IV
Mr. & Mrs. William F. Monaghan
Nancy Sayles Day Foundation
Nantucket Community Preservation Committee
Mr. & Mrs. N.J. Nicholas, Jr.
Dr. & Mrs. C. Hardy Oliver, Jr.
Mr. & Mrs. Donald C. Opatrny
Osceola Foundation, Inc.
Mr. & Mrs. James J. Pallotta
Mr. & Mrs. Roger Penske
Mr. David B. Poor & Ms. Patricia Beilman
Mrs. J. Perry Ruddick
Mr. John C. Ruttenberg & Dr. Margaret Ruttenberg
Mrs. Peter M. Sacerdote
Mr. & Mrs. Mark J. Sandler
Mr. & Mrs. Paul C. Schorr, IV
Mr. & Mrs. Donald B. Shackelford
Shackelford Family Foundation
Mrs. Anne Larsen Simonson
Mr. & Mrs. Richard G. Verney
Mr. & Mrs. John Welch, Jr.
Dr. & Mrs. John C. West
Mr. & Mrs. Robert C. Wright