Current Research Projects

The Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department undertakes focused research, inventory and monitoring projects aimed at providing increased understanding of the rare resources found on our properties.

Listed below is a summary of the many projects they are currently working on – click on the thumbnail photograph or description below to access more information:

Project Details

Property Conservation Management Plans

The Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department has been tasked by our Board of Trustees to develop property conservation management plans for the Foundation’s major property holdings. Plans have been completed for most of the Foundation’s major property holdings and are reviewed and revised every 5-10 years.

Prescribed Fire Effects Research at Head of the Plains

Fire is a natural process that has been part of the environment for thousands of years and is still used under controlled conditions to produce desirable ecological goals and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. We are undertaking research on our Head of the Plains properties to document the effects of prescribed fire on rare sandplain communities and species so that we can make educated decisions about employing this management tool.

Grassland Restoration Research

Several research projects have been undertaken and are currently underway to identify and refine management techniques for restoring rare sandplain grassland habitat to areas that have been overgrown with dense shrubs.

Sanford Farm Deer Browse Research

At Sanford Farm, we are examining how the long-term exclusion of deer from an area influences plant species composition, diversity and abundance within managed sandplain grasslands and heathlands.

Medouie Creek Salt Marsh Restoration

In 2008, the Foundation initiated a salt marsh restoration project at our Medouie Creek property, located on the northern shore of east Polpis Harbor. We have been performing extensive salinity, water level, water chemistry and vegetation monitoring to document the effects of the culvert installation and channel excavation and have documented very encouraging results.

Squam Forest Survey

Nantucket’s forests are an unusual and important part of the island ecosystem. Squam Swamp and Squam Farm host some of the largest forest tracts on the island, containing many large, old trees. We are documenting the composition and structure of Squam’s Forests in order to refine management of these conservation properties, with the goal of protecting their diversity and unique character while also providing passive recreation opportunities.

Rare Species Monitoring

We annually survey historical occurrences of rare plant species on Foundation properties to determine their current population status. The results of these surveys provide critical information that is used to support listing status of these species under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and determine if management actions are necessary.

Saltmarsh Ecosystem Research

We are collaboratively researching the extent and causes of “saltmarsh dieback,” the unusual loss of vegetation that has been documented in marshes in the northeastern United States over the past twenty years and has recently been observed on Nantucket.

Bat Population Monitoring

Our science department has been assisting Zara Dowling, a PhD student at UMass Amherst with her thesis project using acoustic monitoring to determine if there are breeding, wintering and/or migrating populations of northern long-eared bats and other bat species on Nantucket.

New England Cottontail Population Surveys

The Science and Stewardship Department has been spearheading the effort to locate and document Nantucket populations of the New England cottontail, a rare and elusive species of rabbit. The Ram Pasture site where New England cottontails have been detected appears to have a small but viable remnant population of this species.

Other Current Research Projects

The Science and Stewardship Department is undertaking a number of additional research and monitoring projects, several of which are collaborations with other organizations and agencies.