Nickerson Fellowship

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The Joshua A. Nickerson Conservation Fellowship

The Joshua A. Nickerson Conservation Fellowship, offered in partnership by Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission, Atlantic Research & Learning Center, and Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore, has provided support to qualified individuals since 1992. At least one fellowship is awarded each year to individuals whose work will contribute to our knowledge of natural and cultural resources within Cape Cod National Seashore, and of the relationships of these resources to the local communities in which they are found.

Proposals may be submitted for research in the broad areas of the natural and social sciences. Topics of interest include terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem processes, biotic and abiotic ecosystem components, cultural and natural resource management, and the political and social implications of resource protection and management.

The amount of the fellowship varies from year to year. Housing may also be available to fellowship recipients while research is being conducted in the park. Laboratory equipment and field equipment may be available as well.

 
Christine Hukak, image of a woman with a pony tail and sweatshirt.
2021 Nickerson Fellow Christine Hudak

Photo courtesy of Christine Hudak

2021 Nickerson Fellowship Recipient

Christine Hudak- Detecting Gray Seal Robustness Using Environmental (e)DNA analysisin the southern Gulf of Maine One of the major fundamental resources and values of the Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS) includes the wildlife within the CCNS borders. The recovering coastal population of gray seals has garnered growing attention in recent years due to their rapid growth in abundance and increasing interactions with humans. A clear understanding of population structure in this system is necessary for protected species management within the CCNS and beyond, and may facilitate prediction of potential disease transmission among seals. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is a tool with promising potential for the conservation of marine animals. This approach is built on the premise that organisms slough cells containing DNA into the water they inhabit and we can extract the DNA from a water sample without ever handling (or even seeing) the organism. While eDNA approaches have been primarily used to detect species presence, there is additional potential to obtain the diversity of populations in a non-invasive and cost efficient manner. To refine the protocols we developed to characterize gray seal eDNA in coastal water samples, we will collect seal eDNA via water samples taken at gray seal haulout sites within the CCNS, filter the samples, and extract and analyze the eDNA in collaboration with CCS seal biologist Lisa Sette and Dr. Kristina Cammen of the School of Marine Sciences in the University of Maine. We will use molecular methods to quantify the amount of gray seal DNA in all water samples (qPCR) and characterize genetic diversity in samples that contain DNA from multiple individuals. While we have had preliminary success detecting eDNA immediately offshore from seal haulout sites, this study will test our ability to detect seal DNA in water samples collected in varying distances to the haulout sites and will also provide us with a preliminary assessment of the genetic diversity in each haulout.

Past Recipients & Final Reports

2020 – Kathrine Sperry - Assessing the impact of salt marsh restoration techniques on Spartina alterniflora genetic variation

2020 – Stephen Tomasetti - From New York to Cape Cod: assessing the differential vulnerability of the Atlantic bay scallop to low-oxygen and high-temperature stress

2017 - Alia Al-Haf, Ph. D. - Boston University - Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Seagrass Meadows over a Nutrient Gradient in the Cape Cod National Seashore.

2017 - Faming Wang, Ph.D. - Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole - Field greenhouse gas data collection to support the Herring River Carbon Project and its Feasibility Study.

2017 - Owen C. Nichols (Director, Marine Fisheries Research Program, Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, Massachusetts/PhD Candidate, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth, New Bedford, Massachusetts) - A novel low-volume portable pump system for zooplankton sampling in shallow, turbulent, 'dirty' environments.

2016 - Owen C. Nichols - Center for Coastal Studies - Shellfish and horseshoe crab larval flux at the East Harbor tidal restoration site.

2016 - Derrick Alcott - University of Massachusetts Amherst - Predator-prey interactions of a river herring spawning migration at anthropogenic obstacles prior to restoration.

2015 - Kate Morkeski - The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory - Greenhouse gas emissions from Herring River marshes.

2015 - Derrick Alcott - University of Massachusetts Amherst - Migratory delay, response to predators, and passage success of river herring in the Herring River Estuary of Cape Cod National Seashore. (Secondary award for monitoring equipment purchase).

2014 - Alexis Fisher - Ph.D. candidate, MIT/WHOI Joint Program - Alexandrium fundyense cysts in the Nauset Marsh System: factors controlling germination and bloom initiation in a changing climate

2013 - Hollie Emery - Ph.D. candidate, Boston University - The Effect of Precipitation Intensification on Salt Marsh Ecosystems and Their Services

2012 - Erin Hilley - Master's candidate, Antioch University New England - Myrmecochory and Coremaconradii at the Cape Cod National Seashore: Exploring the benefits of ant seed dispersal in a coastal environment

2011 - Jennifer Burkhardt - Undergrad/Americorps, University of Rhode Island - DETERMINING THE ROLE OF SALT MARSH MACROALGAE (ECADS) IN CAPE COD SALT MARSHES

2010 - Scott Buchanan - Grad student, Montclair State University - Spatial Ecology and Habitat Utilization of the Eastern Hognose Snake2009 - Taylor Harvey - Undergrad, Wellesley College - Sediment Characterization of the Herring River Restoration Area

2008 - Jessie Wheeler - Grad student, Antioch UniversityNew England - Evaluating Suitable Habitat for Native Halophyte Establishment Using Prescribed Burning in a Restored Salt Marsh on Cape Cod, Massachusetts2007 - Ethan Estey - Grad student, University of Rhode Island - Recreational Angler Creel Survey of Outer Cape Beach Access

2006 - Todd Tupper - extension, no additional stipend

2005 - Todd Tupper - Ph.D. candidate, George Mason University - Habitat Variables Influencing Breeding Effort in Northern Clade Bufo fowleri2004 - Cate O'Keefe - extension, no additional stipend

2003 - Cate O'Keefe - Graduate student, Boston University Marine Program - Habitat Suitability for the Alewife in East Harbor2001 - Whitney Kurz - Undergrad, Duke University - Impacts of Biomedical Bleeding on Horseshoe Crabs

1999 - Brett Still - Intern, Wellfleet Audubon Sanctuary - Systematic Inventory of Park Amphibians (joint project of Audubon and CACO Inventory Monitoring Program)

1997 - 1998 - Jean Poitras, Grad student, UMASS at Boston - Cases of Intergovernmental Cooperation Between the National Park Service and Local Governments

1995 - Aria Brissette - Grad student, University of Rhode Island (SCA) - Pond Restoration and Impact Assessment Plan

1994 - Todd Rinaldi - Undergrad, Unity College, ME (SCA) - Kettle Pond Hydrology - Gull Pond, Duck Pond, Wellfleet

1993 - Scott Shumway - 2nd-year award, same topic with match from NPS "Challenge Cost-share Program"

1992 - Scott Shumway - Professor, Wheaton College - Species Interactions in Dune Plants, CACO

Last updated: July 8, 2021

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Wellfleet, MA 02667

Phone:

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