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Center for Coastal Studies

March 17th, 2016

In 1976, three scientists decided that it was no longer enough to talk and teach about the natural beauty of Cape Cod’s ever-changing coastline and marine habitats; they sought answers to biological questions and to preserve Cape Cod’s land and seascape for generations. These young PhD. scientists – coastal geologist Dr Graham Giese, and marine biologists Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo and the late Dr. Barbara Mayo – created the (http://www.coastal-studies.org Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies}. Their marine science perspectives – the plankton food source, the ocean floor and shoreline/sea inter-dynamics as they all related to our local Cape Cod waters – have expanded into a multidisciplinary approach to marine research that extends throughout the Gulf of Maine and to many other parts of the globe.

Barbara Mayo's legacy is two-fold: she was not only a key proponent for the work of the Center, she was also instrumental in championing a greater role for women.

In the 41 years since 1976, the Center for Coastal Studies' scope of research and influence has increased exponentially. Their achievements include: policy recommendations leading to creation of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; creating pioneering marine mammal rescue techniques and establishing marine mammal rescue training programs throughout the world; water quality monitoring of Cape Cod Bay, and ongoing research focused on historical and current shoreline changes in relationship to global warming. Barbara Mayo's legacy is two-fold: she was not only a key proponent for the work of the Center, she was also instrumental in championing a greater role for women. Today, the Center continues to honor her vision of supporting and promoting female colleagues, through its Barbara Mayo Educational Endowment.

Another important female who played a critical role in the survival and evolution of PCCS was local Provincetown resident, Ruth Hiebert. In the early years of the Center, there was no state-of-the-art marine science lab or administration headquarters, as there is today. The staff of scientists operated out of a modest waterfront house on the west end of town, adjacent to the town boat ramp. Ruth was tireless in those very lean years – promoting the Center throughout the town, volunteering at every event, generously stepping in with donations when the budget was tight, supporting female scientists, and famously hosting board meetings and other CCS events at her home. Today, the Center's lab is named in her honor.

When you enter their Hiebert Lab, the first thing you see is a hanging sculpture of a humpback whale, and large murals illustrating whale migrations, among others. The Center's mission includes conducting scientific research on marine mammals of the western North Atlantic and coastal/marine habitats of the Gulf of Maine; promoting stewardship of coastal and marine ecosystems through educational activities and resources; and collaborating with other institutions and individuals whenever possible to advance the Center’s mission. From the information materials in the Education space, and the oversized training posters on the Center's hallway walls, it is obvious that their research, education, training and assistance has been shared with the general public and other marine scientists around the world, and illustrates their extensive collaboration with many related organizations, from the Cape Cod Stranding Network to NOAA to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and others!

Center scientists have developed maps and management plans to help coastal towns adapt to sea level rise and coastal erosion being caused by climate change; they've participated in the removal and recycling of over 25,000 pounds of lost fishing gear from harbors in Mass. AND Maine; they've advanced new techniques in research, including a ground-breaking new way for estimating the age of humpback whales; and their staff has led and participated in rescue of more than 200 endangered large whales and sea turtles from life-threatening entanglements! They've collected and analyzed water samples from 100 locations around Cape Cod and the Islands to help local/state organizations who work to keep the waters clean, and they also work with fishermen, visitors and residents to remove marine debris from harbors and beaches.

The staff is youthful, dynamic, equally male and female, and love what they do; some work with the world-renowned Marine Disentanglement team – headquarters for the international whale disentanglement network – to share training, tools and techniques with rescuers around the globe; some collect and analyze samples of the phytoplankton and zooplankton that whales eat; others take to the water and air to count, identify and quantify whale populations and to map the sea floor! In a tour through the close quarters of labs and offices, you're likely to see cold-water survival suits, jars of copepod (zooplankton) samples, and even a two-foot tall single vertebra from a whale!! Many thanks to Doug Sandilands (MAER team), Beth Larson (Right Whale Habitat Studies), Corey Accardo (Right Whale Flight Coordinator), Terri Smith (Seafloor Mapping), Bryan Lagair and Cathrine Macort for the time they gave to share information!

The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced a series of celebrations to celebrate its 40th year of research, rescue operations, and , education programs on Cape Cod Bay and beyond. On June 11th, a Gala event will be held at Provincetown Town Hall to recognize long-time members, friends and supporters, as well as fete two of the co-founders, Graham Giese and Charles “Stormy” Mayo, who, along with Barbara Mayo (1945-1988), nurtured the Center for Coastal Studies from a mom-and-pop (and uncle) operation to a 21st-century lab, education and rescue organization. Later in the summer, there will be three Sunset Whale Watch cruises with Provincetown’s own Dolphin Fleet on July 16, July 30, and August 20, featuring the company of Center for Coastal Studies scientists and staff, interpretation by a Center naturalist, delicious food and drink, and a front-row seat from Long Point to Stellwagen Bank to see whales, dolphins, sea birds, and seals. On July 29th, a “Birthday” Party will be held at the Bas Relief in Provincetown during the Center’s annual Whale Week! The public will be invited to Sink a Center Scientist in a dunk tank, participate in the Whale Olympics, and help blow out the 40 candles on the cake. For more information or to make a donation to this fabulous nonprofit, see their website.

Chris Daniels is a writer/photographer, an individual care pet sitter, and Administrative Guru-about-town who shares her life with a bossy cat named Miss Lily and “Damon, the Dog With the Toy”

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