UMass Boston

Nantucket Field Station students sitting on a beach armament.

Courses, Internships and Opportunities

Each summer, UMass Boston offers several field courses from late May through August. These courses feature field work that allows participants to use the island’s natural and cultural resources to investigate classroom topics.  Courses offered explore many fields of study -- from history to marine biology, to spider ecology. These programs, as well as all of UMass Boston's summer programs, are administered through UMass Boston's Continuing and Professional Studies, which oversees corporate, continuing, and distance education.

The program fee per course does not cover meals, books, insurance, or travel to and from Nantucket Island. Bunkhouse housing provides two bathrooms and two bedrooms of bunkbeds, shared full kitchen, dining room, and conference/lounge space. Periodic transportation to town is provided, students are responsible for their own meals. The total program fee is based on the tuition rate per credit, course fee, and housing fee.  

Prerequisites: Admission to Nantucket Summer Program and Permission of Instructor. The instructor will evaluate prior academic history to evaluate preparedness for this course.

Admission: Students must apply to the course(s) of interest. For course application forms see the summer course descriptions. 

Explore Available Scholarships 

Summer Field Courses on Nantucket

Biology 344/345 Field Ornithology

Course Description:
Ornithology is the study of birds. This course will explore the complex biology of birds, including evolution, functional morphology, physiology, ecology and behavior. Field, museum and laboratory activities emphasize particular aspects of morphology, ecology and behavior, as well as taxonomy and identification alongside native Massachusetts species.
The goal for this course is to provide a base of knowledge about birds in a way that will inspire you to keep learning about them through lecture, laboratory and field time. The course will focus primarily on the behavior, ecology and evolution of birds and the development of field skills. 

Credits: 4

BIOL 344/345 Both Lecture and Laboratory are required.                                 

Instructors: Luis DeLeon Reyna & Daniel Buitrago
Dr. Luis DeLeon Reyna is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at UMB. Prior to that he held positions at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute where he was a research associate and the Centre of Biodiversity. INDICASATAIP, in Panama. Luis received his PhD from McGill University, Canada where he worked on Eco-evolutionary dynamics in Darwin's finches. Luis studies evolutionary ecology in a variety of organisms, including bird, fishes and insects with projects adaptive divergence and speciation, human impacts on evolution and eco-evolutionary dynamics. Daniel Buitrago is a Ph.D. student in the DeLeon Reyna lab since 2017 whose focus is the ecology and evolution of contemporary diversification in Neotropical hummingbirds.

Apply to BIOL 344/345

History 276 This Land is Your Land

Course Description:
This class studies how people have used and changed the North American environment from the colonial era to the present through the local lens of Cape Cod and the islands, particularly Nantucket. Through discussion exams, and essays, students will master historical material and build skills in document analysis and written argument. This class does not require a background in history. Science majors and first-year students welcome.

Credits: 3
Instructor: Roberta Wollons Professor of History, UMass Boston.
Professor Wollons research specializations are in American Progressive Era history, women's history, and the history of education. Before coming to UMass Boston in 2006, Professor Wollons taught at Doshisha University (Kyoto), Indian University Northwest, University of Maryland, Case Western Reserve University, and Tohoku University (Sendai). She has held fellowships at the Charles Warren Center (Harvard University) and the National University of Singapore

Apply to HIST 276

Biology 306 Marine & Coastal Ecological Research Methods

Course Description:
Supervised research on the adaptations and interactions of organisms of the beaches, salt marshes, sand dunes, and embayments of Nantucket. In the first week students will participate in directed field surveys and experiments to become familiar with the marine and coastal environments and some common techniques used to research them. In the second week students will design and execute experiments to test hypotheses based on observations from one of the projects from the previous week.

Credits: 3 

Instructor: Elizabeth Boyle, School for the Environment, UMass Boston.
Dr. Elizabeth Boyle's areas of expertise include Coastal marine ecology and Salt marsh biology.
In addition to teaching Dr. Boyle is the Director of Academic Achievement Service Center at UMass Boston, School for the Environment.

Apply to BIOL 306

ENVSCI/ENVST 321L Spiders on Nantucket

Course Description:
This course will introduce students to important field-based methods for assessing biodiversity and estimating species richness, with applications for natural resource management and conservation. In this course, students will learn about spider biology, anatomy, life history, classification and taxonomy, and ecology through classroom lectures and discussions, field sampling, and laboratory processing and identification activities. Students will become familiar with the primary literature and scientific writing through two writing assignments.

Credits: 3

Instructor: John Dobyns

Apply to ENVSCI/ENVST 321L

Immersive Opportunities

Field Station Internships

The Nantucket Field Station offers highly interested students internship experiences. Students must submit an application to be considered. Internships can be unpaid for credit or paid internships.  During the fall and spring student involvement is a mix of in-person and remote hours. In the summer in residence in person internships are available as 6 or 12 week opportunities. 

Completed internships consist of a minimum number of hours each week. A weekly meeting with the director, keeping a journal or field notebook, and leading a particular project. Students frequently lead nature walks, contribute to ongoing environmental monitoring, upload data, and assist the director in station operations. Interacting with the public and with other Nantucket partnerships is common. Working on the Boston campus remotely is a component of most internships as well.

Most interns are from UMass Boston but need not be. 


Apply to Internships

Independent Study

UMass Boston undergraduate students may conduct research through the independent study option at the field station. To do so, students must have a faculty advisory and approved project proposal in their department of study. If you are interested in working directly with the station director, it is through the School for the Environment or in conjunction with your department and the station. The College of Liberal Arts Anthropology Department and the College of Science and Math, Biology Department frequently have students with Nantucket related projects. 

To request information about conducting work on island, use of the lab and housing options available through the Nantucket Field Station, please email Yvonne Vaillancourt. Be sure to include a description your project or area of expertise and faculty advisor. 


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Day Use Guidelines and Group Visits

UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station Day Use Guidelines

As a teaching and research organization with decades of experience in the Nantucket environment, we welcome the opportunity to share ideas with you about interesting and appropriate ways to use the station for environmental education. To preserve our habitats for teaching and research, and to insure a quality experience for our visitors, students, and investigators, we ask you to observe the our facility and grounds group visitor guidelines:

  • Email or call our office at 508.228.5268 three weeks in advance to request your group visit.
  • Field trips are limited to 25 people total per visit.
  • Sponsoring organizations are responsible for making sure trip participants observe posted Field Station Guidelines
  • Groups of 4 or more must sign in at the sign in box attached to the lab using the large group sign-in sheets. People using field station grounds in groups of 1-4 people should sign in using the daily sign in sheet (left side of sign-in box).
  • Visitor parking can be found on the right about halfway down the drive. The second lot is reserved for official field station laboratory users and is across from the lab, which is the first building on your right as you enter the property. Only authorized vehicles are allowed beyond this point, except for those with handicapped access or preapproval by the station director.
  • The field station trails are open to the public, buildings and equipment are not. Please respect the privacy and work-in-progress of our resident students and researchers. Do not touch or disturb experimental apparatus.
  • The field station is home to many species of island flora and fauna. Please tread lightly and try to observe birds and animals without disturbing them.
  • It is permissible to pick up shells or rocks from the beach as long as they are not providing a home for an organism. Please leave all living organisms and plants where they are, unless you are doing a research collection and have the proper permits.
  • To preserve fragile vegetation, please do not walk on the dune or salt marsh.
  • For your safety and to limit erosion, do not climb the bluff or stand on its edge.
  • For their safety, please keep children under close supervision, and away from the bluff.
  • Flags, marking tape, buckets, plastic hoses, and other objects around the Field Station are in use for on-going experiments. Please do not disturb.
  • The field station has no public restrooms.
  • Please carry out all objects which you carry in.
  • Dogs are allowed at the field station; many do visit, please pick up after your pet. A pooper-scooper box is provided by the sign in board.
  • Maps of the trails are available at the sign in location and at the large kiosk.

Funding and Engagement Opportunities

Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative

The Nantucket Field Station is a founding and active member of the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, a collaboration of nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, businesses and individuals. The mission of the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative (NBI) is to conserve the native biodiversity of Nantucket through collaborative research, monitoring and education. 

The Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative (NBI) funds a wide range of projects that support biodiversity research on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts and the surrounding offshore waters. 

Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative Group photo.


Explore NBI grants, conferences and events.

Contact Us

Nantucket Field Station
180 Polpis Road
Nantucket, MA

Phone: 508.228.6268
General Email:

Spring/Summer: 9 AM-7 PM
Fall/Winter: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
(or by appointment)