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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Spend the Semester on Nantucket

UMass Boston has finally decided to put the Nantucket Field Station (NFS) to more use during the fall semester. Corporate, Continuing, and Distance Education is offering a 12-credit semester on Nantucket. Classes begin September 30, and the fee is $3,950 and includes course fees, administration fees, and residence within a furnished 2-bedroom apartment.

The NFS, founded in 1967, consists of a 107-acre plot of land including 40 acres of salt marsh, 2,000 feet of sandy beachfront, fields, upland shrubs, and two freshwater ponds. On top of all this, there are five two-bedroom units in an apartment complex in Gouin Village, near the center of town.

The estate on which the NFS is located originally belonged to the late Mr. Stephen Peabody. For the purpose of teaching and research, The Nina Hazen Foundation donated the property to the University of Massachusetts. The late Katherine Coe Folger also donated a piece of land to the NFS.

The 50-square-mile island of Nantucket is located 26 miles south of Cape Cod and was created between 14,000 and 22,000 years ago through glaciations. Native Americans originally inhabited the island, with European settlers arriving around 1659. The geographic isolation from the mainland had kept pollution levels low until the recent major developments during the past 30 years. This opens the door for conservation biologists and environmentalists to study ecosystems during the beginning stages of degradation from pollution.

The untouched environment of the NFS becomes more valuable as the developments continue. Areas of conservation on Nantucket include heath, grassland, old fields, pond, bog, swamp, and barrier beaches, and support a high degree of biodiversity for an island of its size.

Recently, UMB graduate student Stephanie Wood collected ecological data on gray seals under the direction of Professor Solange Brault, of the Biology Department. Other researchers who have utilized the space include those from Harvard, Northeastern, U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the College of the Atlantic. A group from the Harvard School of Public Health used the NFS to perform tests on Lyme disease vaccines, for which Nantucket happens to be a hot spot.

The NFS has also been used in social and historical research. The James Bradford Ames Fellowship, which has ties to the UMB Africana studies department, was created to support the study of black and Cape Verdean social life and history on the island. Mrs. Adele Ames created this fellowship in honor of her late husband, one of the first African-Americans to graduate from MIT with a degree in Chemistry.

Thus far, most of the courses at the NFS have taken place during the summer, including the Nantucket Light: Oil Painting Marine Biology on Nantucket Island class offered this year. This semester classes include: E&GSCI 101, The Global Environment; BIOL 290, Population Biology: Nantucket; ENGL 206, Six American Authors; and HIST 178, The Nantucket Community: At Home and At Sea. Participating faculty include, John Ebersole and Solange Brault of Biology, Richard Gelpke of Earth and Geographic Science, Alan Helms of English, and Lester Bartson, Julie Winch, and Jonathan Chu of History.

The research building is 1,200 square feet with workspace and bench space. The NFS has a wide variety of equipment available, ranging from an assortment of microscopes and pH meters to spectrophotometers, salinometers, drying ovens, and muffle furnaces. The station also maintains a 3,000-sheet herbarium, fresh- and saltwater aquaria, and six boats from 8 to 17 feet long.

The Field Station is currently under the supervision of a new director, Dr. Sara Oktay. The previous (and first) director of the NFS, Dr. Wes Tiffany, sadly passed away on September 5, 2003 after complications from a serious heart attack and a long-term kidney disease.