Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Awarded Community Preservation Act Grant for Fiscal Year 2021

Nantucket, MA – The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is pleased to announce that the Community Preservation Committee has awarded the MMA $319,000.00 for the conservation and restoration of the exterior of its historic 1908 Maria Mitchell Vestal Street Observatory and its 1922 attached Astronomical Study.  The award is a grant recently approved at Nantucket’s Annual Town Meeting on June 25, 2020.  Coupled, with funding from the M. S. Worthington Foundation, these monies will allow the MMA to attend to much-needed work to the exterior of the building which will alleviate shifting of brickwork, replacement of rusted lintels, and rebuilding and replacement of spalling bricks and mortar.  It will also allow for copper work to be completed on the historic 1908 dome roof which is made of copper and other alloys.

According to Jascin Leonardo Finger, the MMA’s Deputy Director and Curator, “This has been a project long in the making.  We are excited and grateful to our funders and ready to get to work on this historic, continually working observatory so that it can continue to be a vital part of astronomical research into the next 100 years while also standing as a shining example of important historic preservation work and historic architecture on Nantucket.”

The Community Preservation Act, established in Massachusetts and established on Nantucket in 2002, has a Committee consisting of nine members. The members include an appointed designee from each of the following: the Conservation Commission; the Historic District Commission; the Nantucket Islands Land Bank; the Planning Board; the Park and Recreation Commission; the Nantucket Housing Authority; and the Board of Selectmen. There are also two members-at-large from the community.  The CPC studies the needs, possibilities, and resources of the Town regarding community preservation.  The committee makes recommendations to Town Meeting for: the acquisition, creation and preservation of open space; for the acquisition and preservation of historic resources; for the acquisition, creation and preservation of land for recreational use; for the creation, preservation and support of community housing; and for rehabilitation or restoration of such open space, historic resources, land for recreational use and community housing that is acquired or created based on grant applications from entities in the community.

CPA funding has allowed the MMA to complete many important historic preservation projects on the historic Mitchell House (1790), birthplace of America’s first woman astronomer Maria Mitchell, as well as the conservation of the exterior of its Research Center, formerly known as the MMA Science Library (ca. 1830 and 1930).  It also supplied substantial funding for the all-inclusive, accessible playground on Old South Road, a collaboration between the Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket Islands Land Bank, and several other entities on and off-island.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Virtual Speaker Series Continues with Dr. Jennifer Karberg

Nantucket, MA – On July 8, 2020 at 7:00 pm, Dr. Jennifer Karberg of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation will give a virtual lecture entitled, “Nantucket Coastal Resilience: Importance and Function of Natural Buffers.” The talk will be held via Zoom.

The island of Nantucket is at the forefront of climate change and sea level rise impacts anticipated in the next few decades. But the island is also benefiting from local research and innovation on ways to adapt to these impacts. The natural beauty and resources of the island are one of the unique aspects that draws people to Nantucket and they are also one of the resources that will help buffer and protect the island from climate change impacts. This talk will explore the ecological function and benefits of Nantucket’s natural coastal buffers, particularly salt marshes and coastal dunes, as well as opportunities for innovating and enhancing these buffers to protect key low lying coastal areas. Learn about local research and restoration aimed at improving salt marsh function, exploring living shorelines and the potential for blue carbon to mitigate climate change.

Dr. Jen Karberg is the Research Program Supervisor for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and oversees the multi-faceted research program of the Foundation. Jen’s personal research interests include fresh and salt water wetland ecology and restoration, climate change and coastal resiliency, rare plant ecology and disturbance ecology. Initially from the mid-west, Jen studied first plant ecology at the University of Michigan for undergrad and then obtained advanced degrees from Michigan Technological University in wetland ecology and rare species conservation genetics. In her 12 years on island, Jen has been the co-chair of the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative Research Conference, served on the Nantucket Conservation Commission, and various boards of the Society of Wetland Scientists. Jen is currently representing NCF on the Nantucket Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee and is Chair of the Women in Wetland’s section of the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_W06cULhxQBWOcJUsPOquHQ

The Maria Mitchell Association will be hosting a virtual speaker each Wednesday evening from 7:00-8:00 as part of its summer Science Speaker Series. The lectures will be free and viewable on Zoom. The link to each lecture will be shared on the Maria Mitchell Association’s website and social media. The Series is sponsored by ACKlimate, the Osceola Foundation, and Nantucket Island Resorts.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Virtual Speaker Series Continues with Astronomer JJ Hermes

Nantucket, MA – On July 1, 2020 at 7:00 pm, Dr. JJ Hermes will give a virtual lecture entitled, “When the Referee Lets You Name Your Stars.”  The talk will be held via Zoom.

Digital surveys have mapped the positions of most stars in our night sky down to a limit roughly 100 million times fainter than can be seen by the unaided eye. It is therefore rare for astronomers to “discover” new stars. However, unraveling new classes of stars by grouping similar types of objects connected by a physical phenomenon happens often at the cutting edge of astronomy. I will discuss the joys (and pitfalls) of naming new classes of stars by focusing on a recent discovery: stellar remnants that were once in a close pair of binary system but have recently been slung-shot out of the Galaxy after a disruptive supernova explosion.

Dr. Hermes is an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy at Boston University, focused on high-precision observations of the endpoints of stars, planets, and binary systems. Before moving to Boston in 2019, he was a Hubble Fellow at UNC Chapel Hill, an ERC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Warwick in central England, and he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also worked as a journalist, served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in 2007, and worked as a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C.

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_oArIJeSpR3-EtXCIp-9Ukw

The Maria Mitchell Association will be hosting a virtual speaker each Wednesday evening from 7:00-8:00 as part of its summer Science Speaker Series. The lectures will be free and viewable on Zoom. The link to each lecture will be shared on the Maria Mitchell Association’s website and social media. The Series is sponsored by ACKlimate and Nantucket Island Resorts.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

MMA Statement on Recent Events

The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) would like to express its sadness and outrage at the recent acts of racial violence including the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others, and the systemic racial injustices that have long plagued our country. Black lives matter, and the MMA strongly condemns racism, hate and bigotry. Given the MMA’s longstanding goal of expanding inclusion and opportunity, we feel it is imperative that we state our support for our fellow black citizens and our condemnation of racial injustice.

Our organization was founded in 1902 to honor the legacy of America’s first woman astronomer, Maria Mitchell. Mitchell was a Quaker who worked for the equality of all people. She was a staunch supporter of the abolitionist cause, and refused to wear cotton clothing in the belief that doing so perpetuated slavery. She was the librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum when, in 1841, the Atheneum invited Frederick Douglass to deliver his historic speech. Today though, more than 200 years after her birth, our society, and the scientific community in particular, are still not open to all on an equal basis.

Our mission is to “create opportunities for all to develop a life-long passion for science…” and includes promoting diversity and equality in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. Our work in this area has included our Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium, Discovery Playground, camp scholarship program and our efforts to recruit student interns from underrepresented groups. In the spirit of our founder, we will look internally to see what additional actions we must take as an organization to combat racism, better serve communities of color, support black scientists, create a more just STEM community, and ensure that we live up to the values Maria Mitchell demonstrated throughout her lifetime.

While the night sky is unlimited, parking in downtown Nantucket is not!

Nantucket, MA – The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is delighted to offer a unique opportunity to win a reserved town parking space for the month of July in our WISH UPON A STAR FUNDRAISER. Between 9AM Monday, June 15 and 9AM Tuesday, June 30, you can earn chances to win by making an online donation of $125 or higher to the WISH UPON A STAR FUNDRAISER via the MMA’s website.

One parking space is located at 28 Washington Street and three spaces are located at 33 Washington Street.

On June 30 at 12PM, MMA Executive Director, Dave Gagnon, will draw four lucky winners, streamed via Instagram and Facebook Live, each receiving one private town parking space for the month of July. Please find the complete rules below.

All donations will support the MMA’s mission to create opportunities for all to develop a life-long passion for science through education, research, and first-hand exploration of the sky, land, and sea of Nantucket Island. This online auction is one of a few fundraisers planned in lieu of the MMA’s Stargazer Gala, which has been postponed until 2021.

How to Enter:

You can earn chances to win by making an online donation for the WISH UPON A STAR FUNDRAISER between 9AM Monday, June 15 and 9AM Tuesday, June 30.

$125 donation – One chance
$250 donation – Two chances
$500 donation – Four chances
$1000 donation – Eight chances * plus two bonus chances (10 total)

One space, located at 28 Washington Street, is available as a BUY IT NOW item with a  $5,000 donation. This is being offered on a first come, first serve basis.

When you submit your donation, you will be able to select your preferred numbers for the drawing (1-200). Numbers will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Four numbers will be drawn on June 30.  We will share regular updates regarding available numbers via our website and social media platforms.

Prizes:

(1) parking space located at 28 Washington Street
(1) parking space located at 33 Washington Street
(1) parking space located at 33 Washington Street
(1) parking space located at 33 Washington Street

The winners will have access to their parking space from 6AM Wednesday, July 1 – 9PM Friday, July 31. We will select the prizes in the following order:  Space 1A at 33 Washington Street, followed by space 1B at 33 Washington Street, followed by space 1C at 33 Washington Street, followed by space 1 at 28 Washington Street (unless it is purchased in advance via BUY IT NOW. The winners will be contacted on June 30 following the drawing.

For more information, please contact Logan Gomes, Director of Advancement at (508) 228-9198.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

Join William McKeever for a Virtual Author Talk on ‘Emperors of The Deep’

Nantucket, MA – On June 19, 2020 at 7:00 pm, William McKeever, author of Emperors of the Deep, will share new research about sharks, including the impact human activity and climate change are having on their migration patterns and their ability to survive. This talk is part of the Nantucket Atheneum’s Virtual Author Talk Series and is held in partnership with the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association.

McKeever is an author, filmmaker, and ocean and shark enthusiast, who has travelled the world documenting his journeys. Through his books, film, and non-profit, he has worked tirelessly to bring the issues of ocean and shark conservation to the forefront through education and activism.

His book ‘Emperors of the Deep’ is now available in paperback at Mitchell’s and Nantucket Bookworks.

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87023849868

The Nantucket Atheneum, a private non-profit organization, provides public library service to the island’s year-round and seasonal residents, housed in a historic 1847 building and the Weezie Library for Children. The Atheneum collects, organizes and disseminates books, literature and other materials in a variety of formats to help users of all ages meet their recreational, personal, professional and intellectual needs. In keeping with its heritage, the Atheneum also serves as a cultural center for the Nantucket community by sponsoring educational programming and maintaining special collections related to the history and culture of the island.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Virtual Speaker Series Continues with Astronomer Meredith MacGregor

Nantucket, MA – On June 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm, Dr. Meredith MacGregor will give a virtual lecture entitled, “How to Form a Habitable Planet.”  The talk will be held via Zoom.

Most young stars are surrounded by ‘circumstellar’ disks of gas and dust, the initial material for the formation of planets.  Dr. MacGregor will discuss how planetary systems form from these disks and evolve over millions to billions of years, with a focus on what conditions might create a ‘habitable’ planet. For the first time, we can see baby planets forming in circumstellar disks, and watch as they sculpt their surroundings through gravitational interactions. Dr. MacGregor will also discuss what other factors impact the habitability of planets, including the effect of space weather produced by the host star.  In the future, the development of new telescopes presents an exciting path towards understanding our Solar System, its formation and evolution, and its place in the universe of exoplanet systems.

Meredith MacGregor is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the NASA Infrared Science Interest Group. Previously, she was a NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science after finishing her PhD at Harvard University. Back in 2009. Dr. MacGregor was an intern as part of the Maria Mitchell Astronomy REU program! Dr. MacGregor’s research program leverages multi-wavelength observations to explore the formation and potential habitability of planetary systems.

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CaD_ZxkaSdG5etVBw2trjA

The Maria Mitchell Association will be hosting a virtual speaker each Wednesday evening from 7:00-8:00 as part of its summer Science Speaker Series. The lectures will be free and viewable on Zoom. The link to each lecture will be shared on the Maria Mitchell Association’s website and social media.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Begins Virtual Science Speaker Series with Jack Dubinsky

Nantucket, MA – The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is moving its summer Science Speaker Series online due to COVID-19. The series will kick off with Aquarium Manager Jack Dubinsky on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 7:00 pm. Jack’s talk is entitled, “Lovely Oceans: A discussion of the fascinating reproductive biology and contemporary issues affecting procreation in marine organisms.”

Join Jack for a fascinating discussion about reproductive behaviors in the ocean. First, he will discuss the basics about reproduction in the ocean. Then he will look at the most romantic, dramatic, and bizarre case studies of reproductive strategies. Finally, he will discuss how human activity is affecting the success of procreation in important marine species.

Jack has been interested in sea creatures since he was a child. He began his journey with MMA at the age of 12, when he first volunteered at the aquarium. He later received a marine science degree at The Evergreen State College and is currently the director of the MMA Aquarium. Jack’s research background includes goby-shrimp symbioses, Green Crab population dynamics, and comb jelly physiology.

The Maria Mitchell Association will be hosting a virtual speaker each Wednesday evening from 7:00-8:00 as part of its summer Science Speaker Series. The lectures will be free and viewable on Zoom. The link to each lecture will be shared on the Maria Mitchell Association’s website and social media.

ACKlimate sponsors the Maria Mitchell Association Speaker Series.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.

Ginger Andrews, MMA Field Ornithologist, Beginning Birding Advice

First, you probably already know more than you think you do. It is virtually impossible to know ABSOLUTELY nothing about birds. So, start where you are. And get to know the birds you already recognize even better.

Look for movement. Listen. Before you can identify birds, you have to find them first.
Then start asking questions about what you see or hear.
The first thing to observe is their size.

A Robin makes a good measure. Once you know a Robin, ask yourself if the bird you are looking at is smaller than a Robin? Bigger than a Robin, but smaller than a Crow? Crow-sized or bigger?

Then, where is the bird and what is it doing?

Is it a small bird darting from tangle to tangle?

Is it long legged, standing in water? Is it soaring overhead, wings extended?

Habitat is a helpful clue, but birds do not read the books and do not always land or stay where the authorities think they are “supposed” to be.

Then look at the bill, the wing, the tail, the way the bird moves, what it does.

Birding by ear is perfectly legit. But it takes practice to hear birds at first. Chances are you have already put in a lot of unconscious effort trying to ignore the extreme noise pollution around human neighborhoods. But paying attention to sound pays off.

If you are in your house or car, you can look out from behind glass without disturbing birds, and you may get reasonably good looks even with the naked eye. But it does require patience. So yes, binoculars are very helpful. As a near-sighted person I would never have been able to become interested in birds if I had not had a good pair of binoculars. And for stealth and distant viewing a telescope is even better. But some people just bird with a camera, which has the virtue of documentation at the same time. And even the blind can bird by ear, learning songs and calls.

When it comes to identification, the newest thing is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Merlin app. It will ask you a few simple questions, and give you photos to choose from, that help you identify what you are seeing based on what is most common or likely where you are. There are lots of on-line resources.

Some of us old-school types still prefer a field guide, of which there are many. We enjoy just looking at the pictures even if we haven’t seen all the birds yet. Sometimes a surprising record or rarity has been discovered by someone who just happened to have looked at a colorful bird illustration and recognized it in a completely unexpected place.

For beginning I still like the Roger Tory Peterson guides best, for the little arrows pointing to the salient differences, and the ease of flipping pages to look for similar patterns. It made me look harder at certain differences, and to tease out which details to look for.

It takes a while to amass mental reference points for all the families of birds, but once you have a rough idea, then you can start delving into more detail. This is a skill, which requires practice, which is rewarding because it takes effort, and is therefore a real thing.

Birding is also useful as a point for developing critical thinking. People want a “special” bird, a totem, a message. But setting out to find a particular bird is often a quest doomed to disappointment, even if someone else has recently seen one. “Did not see an Eagle again today,” might diminish what would otherwise be a very rich experience of a dozen or more well-seen species. It is the sense of discovery, of going out to look with an open mind, that is the essence of birding.

Birds have wings and they use them. So, the bird you see is your bird. It is not easy to see a bird well. A good clear look is a gift of the moment, an experience shared by you and the bird.

There is no such thing as an un-interesting bird, so don’t be disappointed by common ones. Pigeons inspired Darwin as much as Finches; Song Sparrows provided Margaret Morse Nice with a life’s work. Any species may enable someone to make an interesting discovery about something.

The “wishful thinking” test is also useful. A brief glimpse might tease the brain into thinking it is a particularly desired rare bird. But ask yourself, “What if I wanted the opposite? What would be the more common, more likely interpretation or outcome?” This has obvious real-life uses as a planning strategy, too.

One last thing to remember: Nothing is impossible! But the improbable requires documentation.

And a warning: birding can become habit-forming, providing hours of simple pleasure in the outdoors.

Text and photos by Ginger Andrews.

Bird-at-home-a-thon on Nantucket

 Nantucket, MA – On May 15-16, we invite birders young and old, experienced and novice, from all over Massachusetts and especially on our beautiful Nantucket island to join Mass Audubon and the Maria Mitchell Association in an annual Bird-a-thon. This effort helps our organizations collect information on the biodiversity of our feathered friends on the island and beyond.

Due to COVID-19, the event was re-imagined by Mass Audubon as its first ever Bird-at-home-a-thon. With social distancing in mind, team members will bird from the safety of their own homes or from a nearby greenspace within walking or biking distance. We encourage participants to ask family and friends to bird as well

It will be a carbon-free, safety-focused, and family-friendly event! We hope the accessibility of this event will enable more people on Nantucket and those with connections on Nantucket to participate.

The goal will be to identify as many species of birds in a 24-hour period and also complete other fun, nature-based activities to earn team points. We need the help of the entire Nantucket community to make this event a success.

This Bird-at-home-a-thon serves as a reminder of the variety and abundance of wildlife that surrounds us and our responsibility to preserve the habitats of our beautiful and varied bird species.

All donations and pledges raised for the Nantucket WS/MMA TEAM will be equally shared between the Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket’s Science Center and the Nantucket Wildlife Sanctuaries of Mass Audubon.

Nantucket residents and non-residents can participate in a number of ways. Donors can choose to pledge an amount per species seen (we typically observe around 100 species), or donate any amount regardless of the number of species we record!

Are you new to birding or are you participating with your kids? There will also be a number of activities for families including bird drawing and bird photography.  It will be a blast!

Sponsors this year include Presenting Sponsors Ream Design of Ayer and Camosse Masonry Supply of Worcester and Media Sponsor, public radio station WBUR.

To participate, donate, and to learn more about Bird-a-thon, please visit www.mariamitchell.org or www.massaudubon.org/birdathon.

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Mass Audubon protects more than 38,000 acres of land throughout Massachusetts and 950 acres on Nantucket, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts’ largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state’s natural treasures for wildlife and for all people—a vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women.

The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) 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, a research center, 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.