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Learning from an Island: Harvard Students Explore Vineyard Ecosystems

Thursday, March 23, 2017
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A lucky group of Harvard students spent 5 days on Martha's Vineyard during Spring Break with HF Director David Foster, exploring the Island's history, culture, and ecosystems. Foster has been studying the Island for decades, and recently published a book and series of maps about the Island, around which the program was based.

The focus of the trip was to introduce students to the Island's diverse ecosystems and the many human and natural factors that have shaped them over time. 

In addition to guided hikes through a variety of conservation lands and beaches, students participated in an Island-wide Grazing and Conservation workshop organized by Foster; toured the Goodale Construction Company’s decades-old mining pit with owner Peter Goodale; met just-born lambs and saw farm education in action with general manager Jon Previant at The Farm Institute of The Trustees of Reservations; toured the Gay Head Art Gallery and Aquinnah beaches with gallery director Megan Ottens-Sargent; toured a traditional fishing area and research lab with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head's Director of Natural Resources, Bret Stearns; explored the rich cultural history and old railroad trail of Oak Bluffs and Katama with longtime resident Fritz Knight; got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vineyard Gazette newsroom, archive, and printing presses with writer Tom Dunlop, librarian Hilary Walls, publisher Jane Seagrave, and editor Julia Wells; and attended a private screening of the award-winning documentary One Big Home, with a Q&A with filmmaker Thomas Bena as well as Steve Bernier, activist and owner of Cronig's Market, the Vineyard's "100-year-old local grocer."

The program was made possible by funds from the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences.

The students will return to Harvard Forest later in the spring to explore the links between the ecosystem research we conduct on Martha's Vineyard and the research we conduct here at the Harvard Forest and on Harvard Farm.

(Photo of students in the Aquinnah dunes by Clarisse Hart)

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