Post #1 – A Summer at the National Parks of Boston

This summer, I am working for the Natural Resource team at the National Parks of Boston, spending the majority of my time out in the Boston Harbor Islands. The Boston Harbor Island National and State Park is a collection of 34 islands and peninsulas covering about 1500 acres in and around Boston that are overseen by the National Park Service. As a lifelong resident of the Boston area, I didn’t even realize that the area existed until recently and how much natural beauty, cultural significance, and history these sites held. Including ancient Native American settlements, Civil War forts, a smallpox hospital, World War II training facilities, and much more, the Boston Harbor Islands are really an incredible place.

Map of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

The main goal of the Natural Resource team is to preserve and protect the natural resources that the Boston Harbor Islands have to offer. In addition to the many significant historical and cultural sites that I mentioned above, the islands are home to a unique type of habitat found nowhere else in the United States called a “drowned drumlin”, which formed as the glaciers receded at the end of the last Ice Age.  Their rarity gives them ecological significance and importance for both study and conservation efforts

My work this summer is largely field-based and will be focused on two main projects. The first project is one that the Natural Resource team has been working on for years now – invasive plant management and native plant restoration. Since Europeans arrived in Boston Harbor about 400 years ago, the islands began to transform from relatively pristine environments to sites rife with invasive species that grew unchecked and smothered out native species. Part of my efforts with the Natural Resource team is to cut back and remove invasives, such as multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet, in order to leave room for native species to regrow. In addition, we are replanting young natives that have been grown from seedlings in an effort to remove the homogeneity that has overtaken the islands. The purpose of this is to return the islands to their historical biodiversity so they can be seen and admired by visitors as the natural landscapes that they had been prior to disturbance.

For my second project, I am working with a PhD candidate from UMass Boston to inventory marine species found on the islands’ intertidal zones (the shore space between low and high tide). By assessing sites near eroding seawalls and cliff-sides, she hopes to create baseline data on sites that could have new seawalls built within the next few years to mitigate the effects of climate change. By doing so, these sites can be used to show the effects that artificial structures have on coastlines in terms of biodiversity loss. This project fascinates me and working on it has been my favorite part of the job so far. Between measuring coasts, searching for crabs, wading in the subtidal areas to assess mussel beds, and much more, I look forward to spending more time on this project.

Wading during high tide on Peddocks Island to assess water quality with PhD candidate researcher (left).

This summer, I have two main goals: to get experience doing environmental research and to spend as much time outdoors as possible. In the past few weeks, I have immersed myself in my work for the Natural Resource team to get the most out of it that I can. Even when crawling around in tick-infested rose bushes and going up to my waist in frigid Boston water, I have enjoyed it all since I know that my work is contributing to the fight against and understanding of environmental issues.

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