The UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station

nantucketfieldstation3Nantucketers and visitors alike get to know, and stay in tune with, the physical aspects of this island with the help of the UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station.

Owned by the University of Massachusetts system, the Field Station serves as a research outpost at 180 Polpis Road. This magnificent property has no equal on Nantucket, a fact immediately apparent when one reaches the main parking area in front of the research lab. Here, spring through summer, great egrets, ducks of several species, cormorants and gulls forage for food with ospreys that nest on a nest pole on the property, searching for fish.

This 110-acre island of refuge among private summer residences provides not only an oasis for its human visitors, but a sanctuary for the wildlife that inhabit its salt marsh, coastal bluff, tidal waterway and inner harbor shoreline.

Donated to the University of Massachusetts in 1963 by the Estate of Stephen Peabody and in 1965 by the Estate of Katherine Coe Folger, UMass Boston founded and began building the field station in 1963.

That it continues to exist in refuge form today is a miracle of conservation foresight and funding in and of itself. In 2004, during Massachusetts’ budget crisis when UMass was seriously considering selling the property to private developers, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation stepped in and agreed to buy the property for $22.1 million, paying it off a year early in 2009

The Foundation now owns the land, but through an agreement with UMass can continue to use 63 acres of the property for a nature and biological research center. The field station itself functions as an island research headquarters for UMass biology and natural sciences undergrad and graduate students whose curriculum requires a dose of field study.

The main trail consists of a loop that offers access to several side trails. You can’t miss Folger’s Marsh on this loop. A small winding creek opens out into the west end of the field station’s beach. A natural spring of fresh water enters the portion of the marsh from the east on the south side of Polpis Road.

The UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station is a great place to dive into the wilderness of Nantucket and get expert advice on the creatures and plants that inhabit this extraordinary island.


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