Over the last weekend, a team of researchers stayed here at the MMA as part of an annual research trip to Nantucket. Goals for this trip were to collect more fossil shells below Sankaty Bluff and investigate a potential new snake research site. Two researchers, Jessica Cundiff (paleontology) and Joe Martinez (herpetology) are from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) and two others, Scott Smyers and Scott Egan, are ecologists in the consulting field.
Fossil shell collecting was a success and the team found some beautiful tiny snail shells. The fossil shells are ~125,000 years old and represent the life living in this area before the last ice age when, in place of Nantucket, there was a shallow sea. The glacier lifted part of this ancient sea floor and those sediments are now eroding out of the Sankaty Bluff.
After looking for fossils, the team headed to Almanac Pond to investigate the area for future snake population research. Just around the pond edge we captured four ribbon snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) and one garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)! We weighed, measured, and noted injurieson each snake before letting it go. Three of the ribbon snakes were missing parts of their tails- most likely due to predation.