Nantucket Science Festival Press Release

Local Youth Inspired by
The Nantucket Science Festival

girl and woman looking at ice orb

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association and the Nantucket Community School hosted the Third Annual Nantucket Science Festival on March 18, 2017 at the Cyrus Pierce Middle School. Over 375 island children and adults explored science through hands-on activities in robotics, renewable energy and electricity, magnetism, potential energy in engineering, space exploration, sensory crafts, and more. Many organizations across the island also supported this year’s event including the Nantucket High School Tech Club, the Linda Loring Nature Foundation, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, ACK Smart, SmartPower, and the Exploration Station. All worked hard to create this important event for our island’s budding scientists.

The event was started in 2015 to focus on science education for the students living year-round on Nantucket. The steady crowd at this year’s festival demonstrates an immense interest in science education within our community.

“The Nantucket Science Festival provides a fun and engaging opportunity to encourage island children and teenagers’ interest in science. It inspires some to consider careers in science, and others to volunteer for the many science focused organizations on the island. We look to young people to be the innovators that will solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems. It was wonderful to see so many of Nantucket’s young problem solvers talking, working, and playing with island scientists at the Third Annual Science Festival. This is truly an inspirational event,” said MMA Executive Director, David Gagnon. Kim Botelho, MMA’s Director of Education was excited to learn that SmartPower was able to enroll forty families in their home energy assessment program. “Not only does this event provide out-of-school-time opportunities in science, it will actually result in saving energy for Nantucket too!”

The Nantucket Science Festival was completely free-of-charge thanks to generous funding provided by: Dr. David and Beverly Barlow, the Nantucket Land Council, Nantucket Golf Club Foundation, The Nantucket Fund, and a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grant from the Department of Early Education and Care.

Door prizes for the event were provided by the Maria Mitchell Association, the Nantucket Community School, the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Dan’s Pharmacy, the Dreamland Theater, Ginger Andrews, Kitty Murtagh’s, the Linda Loring Nature Foundation, Mitchell’s Book Corner, the Nantucket Bake Shop, Nantucket Coffee Roasters, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, ACK Smart, the Nantucket Historical Association, The Green, the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, and Thai House. Food donations were provided by Stop & Shop, Espresso To Go, the Nantucket Bake Shop, and the Handlebar Café.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell. She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847. She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell. More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

The Nantucket Community School is a community organization that reaches all pockets of Nantucket Island’s diverse community. Established during Town meeting in 1989, the Nantucket Community School was originally created to utilize the public school facilities “outside of school time” to offer adult education classes and a community pool program. The role of the Nantucket Community School has expanded to include offering educational and enrichment activities to all Nantucket islanders and visitors of all ages. More information about the Nantucket Community School can be found at www.nantucketcommunityschool.org.

 

2017 AAS Alumni Breakfast

Dr. Regina Jorgenson, Director of Astronomy, and Dr. Katherine Rhode, MMA Board Member, will be hosting a complimentary breakfast celebrating REU Alumni of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association.

Sponsored by Plane Wave Instruments, Princeton Instruments, and the American Astronomical Society.

When: Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 7:45 AM – 9:00 AM

Where: Appaloosa 1
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
1501 Gaylord Trail
Grapevine, TX 76051

Save our Skies : Loines Observatory

UPDATE 12/9/16 at 2:38 PM

Thank you everyone for your continued support to protect our skies. We have been in contact with the Town Administration who has released the following positive note:

Town Administration would like to assure the community, Maria Mitchell Association, and lovers of open skies around the world that the Town of Nantucket is working to resolve the situation at Loines Observatory so that we maintain the unobstructed views for visitors and researchers that existed prior to the installation of the new poles. At the December 7th Board of Selectmen meeting, the Board decided to move ahead with the bike path project as it was already under construction. The Board also agreed to work with the utility companies to find a solution. The lines of communication between the town and the Maria Mitchell Association are open. We are actively working to determine cost and quick time frames to either reduce the height of the poles or place the wires underground.

Elizabeth Gibson
Town Manager
Town of Nantucket
(508) 228-7255

CALL TO ACTION 12/8/16 at 5:00 PM

Sign petition here

Dear Members and Friends of the Maria Mitchell Association:

I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of an issue that is directly impacting the Maria Mitchell Association and our landmark Observatories. The Town of Nantucket is currently installing a bike path on Milk Street, which of course, we support. However, in order to install the bike path, the Town decided to move the utility poles to the north side of the street, directly adjacent to the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatory. In addition to moving the pole location closer to the Observatory, we also just learned that the newly installed poles are much taller than the existing poles. The combination of closer and taller poles and wires means that the view of the night sky from Loines Observatory will be significantly impacted, both for our visitors and research astronomers alike. Particularly disturbing is the fact that this will affect our views of the southern sky, which contains the ecliptic – the apparent path of the Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky – as well as the direction towards the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Not only will the new poles and wires obstruct our visitors’ views of the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars, but also, it will essentially end our capability to perform research in that part of the sky.

Once we became aware of this critical issue, the MMA immediately sent a letter to the Board of Selectman, Town Planner, and the Nantucket Historical Commission. We presented testimony last night at the Board of Selectman meeting and implored them to rectify this problem with a solution that would not impact our viewing and research. Although the Board expressed concern and said they would ask various experts for alternatives, they also suggested that perhaps MMA could pay to have the lines moved underground. Obviously, this is wholly unacceptable. I have heard estimates of $100,000 to $1,000,000. Our resources must be dedicated to providing science education and research opportunities to the children and adults on Nantucket, as well as our curious visitors. Paying to install utilities because of bad information and a lack of consideration for one of Nantucket’s cultural, scientific, and historic landmarks is not acceptable.

Obviously MMA will do everything we can to have the poles and wires moved to ensure an unimpeded view of the night sky and to secure the legacy of Maria Mitchell and the great scientists who followed in her footsteps. Future generations of astronomers should not have to modify their research interests because of wires thoughtlessly installed in 2016. Future generations of visitors to our immensely popular Open Nights at the Observatory should not be told that their view of Saturn or Mars is obstructed because of wires installed by the Town without consideration of the legacy of our scientific and educational institution.

Although the MMA will work diligently to save our clear view of the sky, we need our members and supporter’s help. As you are likely aware, Maria believed in and fought for women’s access to the practice of science in a time when it was generally denied. Let us not now stand by and watch as a precious resource – our access to the night sky – is taken away by careless planning. Please e-mail and/or call the Nantucket selectmen and ask them to find a solution that makes our sky whole again and allows a clear view of the planets and stars for generations to come. Tell them about your experiences at the Observatory. Time is of the essence!

 

Board of Selectman contact information:

Matt Fee: mfee@nantucket-ma.gov

Bob DeCosta: bdecosta@nantucket-ma.gov

Rick Atherton: ratherton@nantucket-ma.gov

Dawn E. Hill Holdgate: dhillholdgate@nantucket-ma.gov

Jim Kelly: jkelly@nantucket-ma.gov

Deborah Timmermann (Nantucket Historical Commission): islandhousenantucket@comcast.net

Libby Gibson (Town Manger): lgibson@nantucket-ma.gov

Town Office number: 508-228-7255

Of course, your own words are usually best but feel free to use this text if you would like:

“As a long term supporter of science research and education on Nantucket and the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatories, I urge you to look for a solution that will eliminate the significant impact that the new poles and wires will have on astronomical research and viewing of the night sky from the Loines Observatory.”

Inquirer and Mirror Article

December 8, 2016

 

 

Endangered Beetle Having Trouble Surviving on Nantucket

NEWS November 28, 2016

Contact: Lauren Berlin

508-228-9198 or lberlin@mariamitchell.orgABB measuring 6-14-16

Endangered Beetle Having Trouble Surviving on Nantucket

Nantucket, MA

The American burying beetle, the largest and most visually striking of America’s carrion beetles, was reintroduced to Nantucket Island in 1994 as a part of an effort to save this federally endangered species. About the size of a wine cork with a black body and bright orange markings, the American burying beetle disappeared from most of the eastern United States in the last 100 years. A recent paper published in the Journal of Insect Conservation (http://rdcu.be/mLij) by scientists at the Maria Mitchell Association and the Roger Williams Park Zoo suggest the Nantucket population cannot survive without continued human assistance.

“This species has to find and bury a dead bird or rodent about the size of a rat to successfully reproduce and few places in the U.S. have enough animals like that anymore,” says Andrew Mckenna-Foster, lead author of the paper and the former Director of Natural Science at the Maria Mitchell Association. “These beetles are extremely efficient recyclers of dead animals. The American burying beetles evolved to specialize on certain sized carrion, possibly the now-extinct passenger pigeon, and we think a loss of bird species and an increase in competition from animals like opossum have made life very difficult for them,” continues Mckenna-Foster.

The published paper outlines successful reintroduction methods for Nantucket and provides a recipe to re-establish the population. The researchers provided carrion in the form of quail carcasses to the beetles and saw the population rise to a peak of 212 beetles in 2011. After reducing the number of quail provided, they watched the population drop to only 24 beetles in 2016. Changes to field methods and careful record keeping allowed them to make conclusions on why the population decreased. This comprehensive knowledge about the Nantucket population opens up new avenues of research. Ultimately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the Nantucket population and deliberations are underway to determine next steps. “The MMA is proud to be intimately involved with this important reintroduction of an endangered invertebrate. It is important to note that this is the longest running introductory effort of an endangered invertebrate in the US” states David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.

This work is important because it supports the hypothesis that a reduction in carrion is primarily responsible for the decline and this is probably true across the U.S. Since the late 1800s, humans have drastically changed ecosystems around the world and one result has been a simple reduction of the number of animals out there. “It’s easy to notice when a big species like the Carolina Parakeet goes extinct due to hunting. But it’s also easy to overlook what happens to all the species that depended on that bird. We’re starting to understand how species extinctions have sent reverberations through the ecosystem as a whole” says Mckenna-Foster.

Research on the American burying beetles on Nantucket will continue in 2017. More information on this species and many other rare or common birds, plants, fish, and insects can be found at the Maria Mitchell Natural Science Museum or contact the association if you would like a digital copy of the publication.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell. She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847. She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell. More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

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The Maria Mitchell Association Exceeds Matching Grant from the Triad Foundation

NEWS October 24, 2016
Contact: Lauren Berlin
508-228-9198 or lberlin@mariamitchell.org

The Maria Mitchell Association Exceeds Matching Grant from the Triad Foundation

Funds to be used to expand marine research in Nantucket waters

Nantucket, MA – This past August, the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA), Nantucket’s Science Center, received a $15,000 matching grant to fund marine research for on-island and visiting scientists from the Triad Foundation. Nearly one month ahead of the Triad Foundation’s November 18 deadline, the MMA exceeded the match. A total for sixty individuals made donations totaling nearly $18,000 as of October 15, nearly $3,000 above the goal. This means the MMA has received $30,000 towards its important research concerning Nantucket’s waters.

“Our members and supporters are passionate about Nantucket and its surrounding waters. That’s why they rose to the challenge and took the opportunity to double their donation for a cause that resonates with their interest. Best of all, the combination of the grant and donations will provide much needed funds to maintain our Aquarium and marine research programs in Nantucket waters,” says David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.

The grant will also help fund the cost of maintaining the MMA’s 15-foot Boston Whaler. The boat is used for a variety of research projects including mooring effects on eelgrass, harbor phytoplankton biodiversity, and barrier dune snake surveys.

In addition to meeting local research needs, the boat and MMA Aquarium is available to visiting scientists to further their research. The MMA works with a variety of scientists and organizations including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which this summer conducted local research on non-native tunicates and rare jellyfish.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell. She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847. She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell. More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

 

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Women’s Chorus of Nantucket Performs at Loines Observatory

NEWS
October 21, 2016
Contact: Lauren Berlin
508-228-9198 or lberlin@mariamitchell.org

Women’s Chorus of Nantucket Performs at Loines Observatory

Nantucket, MA – Set against a spectacular night sky, and a warm October night, the Women’s Chorus of Nantucket offered their voices to the heavens with three star-themed songs at the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatory. The performance was held on Wednesday, October 19th at an event celebrating the extraordinary women of Nantucket. The evening was hosted by the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket’s Science Center (MMA).

With nearly twenty members, the Chorus sang three songs on the deck of the Observatory under the stars. Guests particularly enjoyed their rendition of the 1934 song “Blue Moon” made popular by the doo-wop group, The Marcels, in 1961. Under the direction of Barbara Elder, the Women’s Chorus of Nantucket practice weekly at the Nantucket Community Music Center. The Chorus is open to all community members and includes performers of all levels

In addition to the music, guests enjoyed wine and cheese along with some Halloween treats. Following the concert, guests and performers viewed the night sky through Loines Observatory’s state-of-the-art 24-inch research telescope and through the refurbished 8-inch historic Clark telescope. The MMA’s Director of Astronomy, Dr. Regina Jorgenson, also took the group on a tour of the constellations and Jascin Finger, MMA’s Curator, spoke about Maria Mitchell’s contributions to science and Nantucket Island.

“This was such a great partnership, bringing the music of the Women’s Chorus of Nantucket to the Loines Observatory. It is one of those cases where art and science came together and resulted in a wonderful evening,” says David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association. “Besides a great performance and a spectacular night sky above, it was a wonderful community event that brought friends together and provided an opportunity to make new ones,” he adds.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell. She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847. She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell. More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

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101916

Bloom Family Establishes Maria Mitchell Association Camp Scholarship Fund in Memory of Son, Adam Bloom

Nantucket, MA –Susan and Howard Bloom have announced Adam Bloom photothe Adam Bloom Scholarship Fund for children interested in participating in the Maria Mitchell Association’s (MMA) winter and spring vacation camp programs which will be again running in December and April. Applications, available at www.mariamitchell.org, are now being accepted for the MMA’s Winter Discovery Camp which will run December 27th – 30th. Over these four days, campers will understand how nature inspires artists, engineers, and new technologies. They will explore a variety of habitats, design outdoor sculptures, create their own animal superhero, build robots, and learn about the significance of MMA’s scientific collections. They will also build a Nantucket nature collection of their own to take home. This camp is appropriate for ages 7-11 years.

According to Sue and Howard Bloom, “Throughout Adam’s life, he had a keen interest in the world around him. He could often be found with his sister and friends, exploring the beaches and marshes throughout Nantucket looking for crabs, fish, and any other creatures they could find. His passion was inspired by his participation in many of the camp programs at the Maria Mitchell Association. As a child, Adam could be found continuing or repeating the activities that he learned to do at camp that day. He was a budding young naturalist.”

“The Adam Bloom Scholarship Fund will enable island children the opportunity to enjoy these very popular camps and experience the joy of ‘learning by doing’ on our beautiful island. We are deeply grateful that the Blooms and their generous friends decided to create a fund in memory of Adam at the Maria Mitchell Association,” stated David Gagnon, the MMA’s Executive Director. He also added that this is an ongoing scholarship and that additional donations for the scholarship are encouraged and welcome.

The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.

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The Maria Mitchell Association Releases Denizens of the Deep at Annual Aquarium Release Day

Nantucket, MA – The Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket’s Science Center, sent the marine creatures in its seasonal public aquarium back to the ocean with a spirited send-off on Saturday, September 3rd.
More than 300 people released 404 animals from the tanks to the edge of the Harbor behind the MMA Aquarium with the help of volunteers and staff. Release Day is an annual event for the MMA Aquarium as it prepares to close the facility for the season. These animals served as ambassadors to the aquatic world for the thousands of summer visitors to the Aquarium.
“We are excited when we catch specimens at the start of the summer season and are eager to share their natural history with visitors. This collection of fish, crabs, shellfish and even sharks, represents the biodiversity of Nantucket Harbor. We are just as excited to release them back to the Harbor at the end of the season. And from the number of people who were present, it is obvious that the public loves this annual ritual,” says Dave Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.
During Release Day, a total of 211 fish were returned to the ocean, along with sixty-six crabs, four sharks, 111 shellfish and mollusks, and a dozen other marine creatures. At the event, the public were invited to make donations to the MMA Aquarium. The MMA Aquarium received a $15,000 matching grant from the Triad Foundation and nearly $6,000 has already been raised. The matching grant will be utilized for Aquarium improvements and marine research.
The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.
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Human and Environmental Effects of Light at Night

On Tuesday, August 30, Dr. Mario E. Motta presented during our Science Speaker Series. Dr. Motta is a Cardiologist at North Shore Medical Center and Partner at North Shore Cardiovascular Associates. In his presentation, Dr. Motta explained the effects of light pollution and the best practices for the change over to efficient LED lighting.

If you missed this great lecture, you can see the PowerPoint below. More information on light pollution can be found on our website here.

Maria Mitchel-2016-LED