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A Science and Stewardship Story


Sunset photo taken by Erin from Thompson Island facing East towards Boston.

In most National Parks there is a team of dedicated naturalists who provide services for the visitors and the native wildlife. Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (BHI) named them the “Science and Stewardship Partnerships team”. Their main goals are to engage visitors with opportunities to conduct science and protect the valuable landscapes and ecosystems on the 34 islands and peninsulas. I know what you are thinking, how can one team of National Park Service (NPS) employees do all that work? The answer to that question is simple. Volunteers from the local communities surrounding the park, interns, and other park partners help achieve the NPS mission. Here are some of the projects they have been working on in the 2022 season with all their amazing partners!

Stewardship Saturdays:

The Science and Stewardship Partnerships (SSP) team and volunteers posing for a group photo after managing invasive plants to help the native habitat on Grape Island.

If you are enjoying the Boston Harbor Islands on Saturday, you might notice a group of biological technicians and volunteers working hard to help the native plant community survive the fierce infestation of invasive plants that try to dominate the landscape. During the 2022 season, most of our work has been on Thompson and Grape Islands with some occasional visits to World’s End and Snake Island. More than 90 volunteers have contributed 1,350 hours of their time to help preserve park habitats. Most of the work involves removing non-native invasive species that are hogging all the space from native species. Saws and loppers are used to clear out invasive plants and make room for favorable native vegetation like bayberry, sumac, milkweed, blueberry, and many other species. These efforts create a healthier space for wildlife. Next time you are outdoors visiting the Boston Harbor Islands, know that the wildlife you observe is being helped every day by park staff and community stewards!

A double-crested cormorant and a smooth green snake enjoying the sunshine.

Citizen Science:

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the environment or the resources around you? The park organizes programs to help get people to get involved in real science. The NPS’s citizen science programs (also known as participatory science) take a closer look at how nature is changing. The data collected helps park managers, researchers, and the public learns about the park and could help park managers make decisions to protect park habitats in the future. Here are the specific projects going on right now!

Bivalve Quest:

Bivalves are mollusks, a type of invertebrate, that utilize two shells connected by a hinge for protection, such as oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops. This project aims to document the distribution and abundance of bivalves in the intertidal areas of Boston Harbor, including the shorelines of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Knowing where each species lives will help scientists and park managers understand and protect these important marine critters.


Group of NPS biological technicians, interns, and volunteers doing bi-valve surveys.

Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative (MIMIC): 

MIMIC is a program led by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, and they have sites from the southern coast of Rhode Island all the way into the coast of Maine. The SSP team helps monitor the sites located with our park. The MIMIC program collects data about what aquatic ocean species are present and how many there are. We mostly do this by simply providing a substrate for marine life to live on, then checking the substrate and recording what they find on a regular basis. Knowing this can help agencies make better management decisions. Here are some neat pictures from some of our MIMIC programs.

Sarah and Shay, two biological technicians, counting and identifying all the different creatures on a MIMIC survey brick. (Anemone on left and mussels & tunicates on right)

Mini Bioblitz: 

A bioblitz helps people connect to their inner naturalist and remind people that nature is everywhere. The purpose of these events is to document and identify as many species as possible in a short period of time to capture the biodiversity of a particular area.

Phenology Walks: 

Phenology is the study of seasonal changes in organisms. Green to red leaves on a maple tree, the migration of a monarch butterfly, the timing of an osprey laying its eggs, these are all driven by the seasonal changes in weather and daylight. The phenology walk program helps capture the timing of these changes and has many implications for management specifically when it comes to the warming climate and increasing frequency of more severe weather patterns.

Will, the National Parks of Boston’s Community Volunteer Ambassador, helps explain identification and seasonal changes in a red cedar during one of the Phenology Walk programs.

Everything BHI does is to protect, preserve, and educate about the park ecosystems and natural and cultural landscapes for the current and future enjoyment of the park space. Having help from the people who use it the most is such a special way to protect a place you love. I urge everyone to take a step back from the daily routine. Divert your attention from the tightly clustered busy environment of the city and appreciate where it all came from. The SSP team tries its best to create a welcoming escape for those who seek it out. SSP cherishes every moment spent with the amazing people that help take care of these lands. Thank you to all our volunteers and partners. Hope to see you out in the harbor soon!


If you would like to get involved with any of these programs, have questions, or want more information, you can reference the attached links and resources. 

Homepage – Boston Harbor Islands

Calendar – Boston Harbor Islands

Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative (MIMIC) |

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