The End; Another Beginning

We have arrived at the end of our experience here on Nantucket. Posters and final presentations went well, but overall the program has been a smashing success! We have gained a wealth of knowledge in not only environmental science, but life as well. We thank everyone who had a hand in making our time on island exceptional.

LivingLabs will be on hiatus this summer, but we will be back with a new cohort in the Fall. Look for us then. Or, maybe just watch out 😉


Research Presentation Information

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UMass Boston’s School for the Environment
Nantucket Semester: LivingLabs
Learn about the on-island science research conducted by the undergraduates during their semester here!

Student Research Poster Session: One-on-one discussions of 16 independent research projects through visual displays
Wednesday, 17 April from 3:00 – 5:00 PM

Student Research Presentation: Five Capstone research presentations ranging across human and natural systems
Thursday, 18 April from  5:00 – 8:00 PM

All free and open to the public at the Great Hall, Atheneum  – – JOIN US !

Contact Sarah Oktay for further information –

Focus Group – Media & Environmental Issues

University of Massachusetts Boston

School for the Environment

LivingLabs: Nantucket

Focus Group

You have been invited to participate in a Focus Group for a student research initiative regarding Nantucketers, Environmental Issues and how different forms of media affect attitudes and opinions.

The Focus Groups will be short (30-40min)

There will be an initial survey asking for basic demographic information (i.e. Age, Education Level, etc.)

You will then be shown 10-12 media (images, infographics, digital clips) regarding Environmental Issues

After each form of media you will be asked to answer 5 Yes / No questions 

(Ex: Do you think the media you’ve seen informed your understanding of Environmental Issues with a new perspective? Yes  /  No)

The Focus Groups will take place at the NRTA’s Greenhound Building

(6 Washington St, Nantucket, MA)

Please choose between the date below to participate in a Focus Group:

Tuesday, 2 April, 5:30 – 6:15 PM

Wednesday, 3 April, 5:30 – 6:15 PM

Thursday 4 April, 5:30 – 6:15 PM

Your presence is greatly and graciously requested to help invigorate the spirit of environmental inquiry on Nantucket!


If you are interested in attending a Focus Group:

Please contact Connor McKay; Student, LivingLabs

(603) 714-5244 or 

Please RSVP at your earliest convenience/ Before the date you will attend

Rants; Pessimism & Optimism

How else can you say it? Capitalism always opposes Sustainability. The ways in which our modern, global society is structured on top of the economic base of Capitalism has driven us into the ground – Literally! And unfortunately, we took everything we found there. We are constantly hearing about how multi-national corporations have no regard for the Earth’s finite resources. Their shortsighted pursuit of the dollar has changed the trajectory of an entire planet. The damage has already been done.

Anyway, the good news is: there are people working on and with it! Before coming to LivingLab: Nantucket I subscribed to a certain view that there is no escape or hope from the stormy prospects of Climate Change. That all changed at 2 specific moments. The first was during a Monday Dinner presentation with Sarah Oktay, she was the first person I had ever heard say with conviction that sea-level rise and climate change is inevitable. A scary thought, but she wasn’t trying to scare us, she was accepting and preparing for reality. The second inspiration moment on Nantucket was during Paul Kirshen’s lecture about Adaptive Infrastructure – Urban and Regional Planning of the future! Regional Planning is the field I want to pursue and it was thrilling to hear about the efforts to modernize our built environment.

To live with sea-level rise, intense and frequent storms, and warmer climate; Its going to happen! The best we as individuals can do is educate ourselves on what day-to-day practices are sustainable for our local environment and how we can create connections to promote scientific knowledge and understanding. Thankfully, thats exactly what we are doing on Nantucket!

Monday Night Speaker Series – 4 March 2013

Every Monday we are treated to a speaker and a catered dinner, by the talented  Chef Stacy. This week’s speaker was Sue Rocca from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDC); her presentation was supported by Scott Leonard of the Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program, and Captain Blair Perkins of Explore Nantucket. Scott led of the discussion with this passage from Moby Dick: “…and as human infants while suckling will calmly and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as if leading two different lives at the time; and while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still spiritually feasting upon some unearthly reminiscence; even so did the young of these whales seem looking up towards us…”  The quote illustrates an essential point about how humans should view the other species of animals, specifically mammals, in context of the environment; We are not distantly related, but are remarkably close! Animals, specifically whales, experience emotions and have complex and nuanced social interactions just as we do. They just have a different situation on the planet than we do. Sue’s presentation focused on the successes of the WDC as well as the challenges the organization experiences dealing with legally conserving the mostly coastal habitat of Right Whales. Since the collapse of whale populations in the Atlantic after the advent of Whaling, populations have not recovered well. Only recently have developments in research methods allowed a deeper study into what is left of whales, globally but, specifically in the Atlantic. WDC is doing great work advocating for all species of Whales and Dolphins and it was extremely informative and inspiring to be reminded of the tough reality faced by othe rspecies of animals around the planet.

Please check out WDC’s website @

And be sure to check out the local, Nantucket initiative  @

5 Weeks & Counting; Onward

So far, so good! 5 weeks in and the island of Nantucket is abuzz with scientific inquiry and investigation. Us students have begun to delve deeper into our independent study projects, meaning: reading pages of text from myriad sources spanning several disciplines, meeting with local members of the community and visiting experts, and getting down and dirty in the salt marshes, on the seas, and… the dance floor at the Rose & Crown ! Personally, as the one-man communications department at LivingLab Nantucket the limits of possibility have never been so wide open. Nantucket Chronicle, a widely-read digest that functions as a nexus of community discussion, has opened a page for LivingLab where we can share the progress of journey during our time here on Nantucket. There isn’t much yet, but check back soon (and often) for more LivingLab updates []. There is definitely more to come of this.

In other news, we are rounding the corner of our Hydrology class. A traditional Environmental Science, studying the movement and distribution of water around the globe – and locally – has never seemed so poignant. With Nantucket as a subject, and resources like Mark Willett from Wannacomet Water Company, we have been able to learn and observe how the distribution of water is related to the geologic history of the island and how modern methods of water extraction can impact the essential resource of groundwater. Hydrology has proven itself to be extremely informative, and Ellen is doing a great job of sharing her passion for the subject with us.

Lastly, we saw some MIT kids at Sankaty Lighthouse on Friday with Mass DCR. I wish we had been able to connect and learn about what they are doing on the island; it would be great to collaborate together! Hope to see more academic activity on island, after we pave the way first 😉


Nantucket, Just as Exotic

Despite the fact that it is snowing and gusting very hard here, it will be gone in a few days. After Nemo, the snow melted quickly and gave way to warm sunny days and dry, brown grass. While the rest of New England will have to deal with weeks of snow, Nantucket’s sand plain grasslands and scrub oak forests will get the exposure they deserve. It was a walk and a bike ride along Cliff Road past Tupancy Links that inspired me this week. Its only a dog park, but the rolling open space contrasting with the high pressure sky and the ocean in the distance… Makes you realize this island really is as special as people say. Its different, it feels different than a more familiar Cape Cod. The remoteness makes it exotic. Not technically ‘exotic’ as environmental scientists classify things, but exotic nonetheless. Exploring the nature of this island is and will be the most enjoyable and informative aspect of my time here.

A Poem for the Persistent

This poem is classic and apropos to the ways in which nature can enchant and motivate us, for we are in the thick of it now.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

As the Rush Comes; EcoPoetics and Perspective

The first ‘Sprint’ course here at LivingLab Nantucket, EcoPoetics,  is winding down with students submitting two anthologies of poems, one of personal work completed during the course and the other of poets who inspire them. Len Germinara is a passionate poet and excellent teacher and has helped a group of sorry scientists get in touch with their hearts, and show it, instead of just their brains. With charisma and pizaz Len has helped set a great academic tone hallmarked by collaboration and accessibility. Something says this is not the last we will hear of Len out here on Nantucket…

Dr. Ellen Douglas’ Hydrology class is on the menu for Monday morning and everyone is anxious to get theirs hands dirty in the name of groundwater science. The segway from art to science is expected to be jarring, so rest and relaxation are top priorities for this weekend at the house on Whalers Lane(Except for the Spelling Bee on Saturday night and a special field trip to Coatue on Sunday, follow up posts to come!). Also, in between the classes and events students have begun to delve into their independent projects, meeting with advisors and formulating abstracts to use as a launch pad into significant scientific study. Stay tuned for their posts!

In sum, LivingLab Nantucket is off to a great start with lots of potential energy becoming kinetic. It can’t be said enough but the students of the program would like to sincerely thank all persons and organizations responsibile for allowing us this opportunity, especially: Everyone at ReMain and their myriad contributions to our program and this historic town; our instructors, past, present, and future; Doctors Anamarija Frankic and Robyn Hannigan, for their tireless effort; Sarah Oktay and the Field Station, for the wealth of their knowledge; the community of Nantucket, and everyone who has contributed to the success of the program and the well-being of the students. Thank you.

The Calm Before the Storm; A Student Perspective from LL’13

25 Jan 13

My colleagues and I have hit the ground running since our landing on Nantucket last Monday. We’ve wasted no time in making a home for ourselves on Whalers Lane, becoming fast friends and creating new memories. We’ve seen some of the sites around the island, but have yet to truly explore them- mainly because the temperature is probably averaging between 5 and 15 degrees. Poetry abound, us scientists have reactivated the right sides of our brains and are now waist deep in our EcoPoetics class. Whether impromptu workshopping poems at 4 AM or meandering around the village for inspiration on a cold Winter afternoon, everyone seems to be embracing poetry as an important component of our education of the Environment. We have also made a splash in town, with a team taking 3rd at trivia night at Sea Dog’s and reading a few chapters of Moby Dick as part of a reading marathon. Things are definitely off to a good start with much more to come, including more informative/ interesting blog posts. =]