By: Kaitlyn Evans, NCF Seasonal Botany Field Research Assistant
This summer I had the privilege of working on Nantucket as seasonal botany/ecology field assistant. I was able to participate in many different projects within the science department. These projects included vegetation monitoring, rare plant surveys, invasive plant management, a salt marsh food web study, bat acoustic surveys, horse shoe crab surveys, and occasionally assisting the shorebird monitors. Because of the variety of projects, I was able to work on many different parts of the island. Squam forest was always an interesting place to work because of the diversity of plants there.
Even the trees in Squam forest are unlike any trees that I have seen before. Beech, Oak and Red Maple, which are very common and grow mostly straight and tall elsewhere, take on an amazing variety of forms in Squam swamp. They aren’t able to grow straight and tall on Nantucket because of the high winds experienced on the island. Although, everywhere that we worked seemed to have its own unique beauty. One of my favorite parts of the job was getting to see places that most people visiting Nantucket probably don’t get to see. There are a lot of beautiful, hidden little places with their own interesting flora and fauna that could easily be overlooked. Since most of the work that I did focused on botany, I was able to learn a lot of new plants and to have a greater appreciation for the diversity of the plant life on the island. If you really look closely there are a lot of very interesting things that you would likely miss otherwise.
One of the projects that was very interesting to me, for this same reason, was the salt marsh food web study. We did this study at salt marshes in Medouie and on Eel Point. We looked at all of the plant and animal life in these marshes, everything from the tiniest insect up to birds. We did vegetation surveys to record all plant species found in the parts of the marsh that we were surveying. We looked in the grass for different species of snails; we used a bug net to catch a variety of insects. We also got to use a bug vacuum which is basically a leaf blower, but in reverse. This allowed us to collect a very diverse sample of insects in the marshes. We set up pitfall traps throughout the marsh which were used to trap fiddler crabs. We found two different species of fiddler crabs, mud and sand fiddler crabs and purple marsh crabs. We also set up fish and crab traps. We caught blue crabs, some green crabs, mummichogs and killifish (small minnow-like fish) and the occasional eel. Many of the things that we were finding were totally new to me which made for a very interesting project!
I truly enjoyed my summer on this beautiful island and am very grateful to have had this incredible experience.
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