Meet our Seasonal Field Assistants

Our 2013 field season is now in full swing and each year we hire a crew of seasonal field assistants to help us conduct all of the field work needed for our many and various research and management projects.  This year we are so pleased to welcome a wonderful, dedicated, and fun crew of people to help us out for the next 5 months.

Iris, Cyndi and Jen monitor vegetation at Squam Farm

Iris, Cyndi and Jen monitor vegetation at Squam Farm

This year we have 3 field assistants: Mara Plato is our dedicated Seasonal Shorebird Monitor and Cynthia Park and Iris Clearwater will be working as our Seasonal Field Assistants working on a variety of projects from salt marsh vegetation monitoring, to tracking spotted turtles, to treating invasive species, and to monitoring forest composition in Squam.  These guys will be working with us all summer, out on NCF properties and we wanted to give them a chance to introduce themselves and tell a little bit about what they are doing and what brought them out to Nantucket!

Mara Plato: Seasonal Shorebird Monitor

Mara near the beach where she spends most of her time monitoring shorebirds.

Mara near the beach where she spends most of her time monitoring shorebirds.

Mara is from Bethesda, Maryland and holds a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland. She spent two summers working with sea turtles in the Outer Banks and one summer working with shorebirds in Cape Cod. This year she hopped over to Nantucket to work as a shorebird monitor for NCF. Mara holds strong to the idea of stewardship and wants to devote her life to protecting the mountains, the waters, the land, and everything within them so that future generations may enjoy them just as she has and find sustenance and livelihood in what they offer!

Mara also has a big heart for border collies and is best friends with her family’s dog, Albus (his favorite foods are sardines, yogurt, and peanut butter)! She was a rower for four years in high school. She has been camping in North Carolina and Vermont. She loves fireflies, storms, shooting stars, and most of all, the love and support of family and friends.

Iris Clearwater: Seasonal Field Assistant

Iris working out in the Middle Moors

Iris working out in the Middle Moors

As a New England child, I found deep soul nourishment in the cobblestone streets and shores of Nantucket.  It was always a place of peace and beauty for me during summer visits.  Now after many years of living on the west coast, I feel incredibly blessed that Nantucket is the first place to welcome me back. There are things that already remind me of the San Francisco landscapes I so recently left – the ocean; intermittent wind, fog, and sun; dunes, varied microclimates and unique ecosystems; shorebirds and land birds;  seals, seafood & chowder; and kind, open-minded, nature-loving people.

And there is a lot that is new to experience and learn.  I am thrilled that working with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation gives me the opportunity to learn about the distinctive nature here, to participate in its care and preservation, and do work that I love with excellent and inspiring coworkers.  In San Francisco I led many stewardship projects – working with volunteers to create habitat for the Green Hairsteak butterfly, white-crowned sparrow, and native plant populations in public spaces; an avid birder, I did shorebird and waterbird monitoring with the USGS; and worked with the National Park Service doing rare plant monitoring and habitat restoration of dune, riparian, and grassland habitats at the Presidio and GGNRA.

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is an exciting place to get to learn about the effective use of a wide range of conservation strategies including fire management and grazing to protect valuable grassland habitats, integrating commercial cranberry bogs, protecting nesting shorebirds, participating in cooperative projects, and managing for healthy ecological communities – that include diverse plants, animals, and people.  I look forward to meeting the wider community that makes all of this work possible, and cares to keep Nantucket’s unique character alive through the changes of our modern times, continuing to provide soul nourishment for local and visiting people of all ages, and preserving this special place in the world that is like no other.

Cyndi Park: Seasonal Field Assistant

Cyndi working hard tracking spotted turtles at Medouie

Cyndi working hard tracking spotted turtles at Medouie

May 4th, 2013, was my graduation day from Oklahoma State University and the marker that would end my 21 year residency in Oklahoma. I moved to the state when I was just a toddler, and grew up there my entire life. I was very fortunate that all of my family live in Oklahoma (thankfully none of which were affected by the recent tornado tragedy) and could always be visited for a day by the lake and a catfish fry in the evening. While I love that state dearly, I have always had an itch to see what else was in this world.

Last summer I accepted a summer position in Oregon as a botanist for a project in the high elevation desert. It was the first time I had ever seen wilderness so vast and beautiful, and I spent almost every weekend camping and exploring everything from the mountains to the ocean. However, it wasn’t only the outdoor adventures that stuck with me, but it was the experiences and lessons that I learned from the culture and the friends that I had made. The first time I saw the Cascade Mountains will always be imprinted in my mind, but I will also never forget a friend’s disastrous attempt to teach me how to fly-fish or when my Dehli-native coworker taught me how to make authentic Indian food.

This summer, I am fortunate enough to travel to the complete opposite side of the country. Here I am in Nantucket, submersed in completely different habitats and cultures, and I could not be more excited to explore them. I am amazed every morning that I am in such a unique and beautiful place, and the people I have met are overwhelmingly warm and welcoming. Already in my first week I have had so many different experiences! I still can’t believe that I was able to spend a wonderful day on Coatue counting gulls nests for work and then later go out with a Nantucket native to catch bluefish. Pinch me! I am completely inspired to immerse myself in such a wonderful place, and discover every lesson this island has to teach me.

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