Fossil and Snake Research Expedition

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 shells

Sorting fossil shells at the end of the day.

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.


Ribbon snake on the left and garter snake on the right.


MMA Spring Newsletter 2014

Did you see our Spring 2014 Newsletter with updates from the Departments of Astronomy, Education, Mitchell House and Natural Sciences?   There’s a lot going on at MMA all year-round!

One correction to make, though.  We are working with the Nantucket Flying Association on the “Air of Opportunities” program, not the Egan Maritime Institute.  (Though we do love collaborating with them whenever we get the chance.)


Nantucket Birdathon 2014

5:00 pm May 16  to  5:00 pm May 17

This year’s Birdathon will raise money to support bird programs and scientific collections Birdsat the Maria Mitchell Association and the Linda Loring Nature Foundation.  Teams take pledges from friends, family, and businesses and we count up how many species (not individuals) are seen total in a 24 hour period.  People can pledge a dollar amount or an amount per species. Anyone is welcome and teams can be made up of one to five people.  Typically we see up to 140 species and usually around 100.

Participation is completely FREE!

Download general information, team registration form, and pledge forms:

General Birdathon Information
Team Registration Form
Birdathon Pledge Form

This year’s t-shirt! (designed by Ginger Andrews)

birdathon shirt


Island Explorers Camp (for MMA Island Family Members)

To celebrate the end of the school year, we are offering a special camp for year-round residents of Nantucket for a discounted price during the weeks of June 16th and June 23rd. Program discounts are applicable with the purchase of an Island Family Membership.

ie camp

Visit our website for more information or to register for these programs.


Brrr…It’s Cold Outside

CDIA, faces, 01-30-06, Waltham, MA, Moody St, Charles River, Canada GeeseJoin Kim Botelho, our new Director of Education, at the Natural Science Museum for her first family program with the Maria Mitchell Association. This program features one of Kim’s original stories, Brrr..It’s Cold Outside, which teaches children how common animals prepare for the cold winter months. Following the story, you will meet one of our education animals and then make a bagel bird feeder to take home for your outdoor feathered friends. If you wish, you can hang it outside the museum instead. This program is appropriate for children ages 3-6 years and they must be accompanied by an adult.


Thursday, February 27th, 10-11 AM
Members: $5 Non-members: $10
Pre-registration required

Director of Astronomy is Published in the Wall Street Journal and USAToday

Astronomy Director Michael West recently published Op-Ed pieces in two of the nation’s largest newspapers. “The Heartbreak of Comets” appeared in the Wall Street Journal and discussed the demise of Comet Ison, which was destroyed when it passed near the sun. USA Today published his essay on “Life, the Universe, and the Peter Principle”, which considered the search for intelligent life in the universe.

Astronomy Program Well Represented at the 223rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington D.C.

Last summer’s REU students in astronomy attended the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington D.C. from January 5th-9th. The students presented results from their research projects and attended the many interesting talks. More than 3,000 astronomers attended the meeting. MMO Director, Michael West, also gave a talk about his research titled “The Spectacular Interacting Galaxy System Arp 105.”

Berkeley student and 2013 astronomy MMO REU intern Baylee Bordwell presented results of her research to more than 3000 astronomers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington D.C.

Berkeley student and 2013 astronomy MMO REU intern Baylee Bordwell presented results of her research to more than 3000 astronomers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington D.C.

NanoDays® Coming to Nantucket

NanoDays logo

  • NanoDays
  • Child playing at NanoDays
  • Family at NanoDays
  • NanoDays




Mark your calendars! The kick-off event will be held at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital on

March 29th 10am – 3pm
March 30th 12pm – 3pm

Come to the Founder’s Building (in the back near the helicopter pad).  This event is FREE for everyone.

Did you know you use nanotechnology every day????

Nanotechnology is in your cell phone, computer, cosmetics, sunscreen, food, and even baby diapers!

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. That is super tiny!  DNA is about 2 nanometers wide and a sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick.  A nanoyear is the time it takes to blink an eye.

Nanotechnology is anything that was engineered using tiny molecules and it is increasingly becoming a major part of our lives.

Each spring, science museums across the country host free events for visitors to learn about nano things in a program called NanoDays. For the third year in a row, NanoDays will be on Nantucket! In partnership with the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the MMA has won a special NanoDays exhibit for the event this year. The exhibit contains activities, demonstrations, and digital media to help people learn about nano things and how nanotechnology is part of our everyday lives.

During the following week, we will be visiting school classrooms and doing demonstrations outside of the Stop and Shop on Sparks Avenue.

2014 is your chance to become nanoliterate!

Families participating in NanoDays activities

Nanodays is funded by the National Science Foundation through NISEnet.

MMA’s Astronomy REU Program Recommended for Four More Years of Funding

We are delighted to report that the National Science Foundation has recommended four more years of funding for MMA’s summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in astronomy, with an award of $393,385.00. The recommendation notes that MMA’s REU program in astronomy has been highly successful and could serve as a source of best practices for the entire national REU program. The NSF program director noted, “It is a very difficult year and only a handful of REU sites will be funded, so MMA can be proud of this accomplishment.”

Learn more about the NSF-REU internships in astronomy.