Citizen Science at Wellfleet Bay

Volunteers in the marsh at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

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Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary seeks volunteers to help with citizen science projects related to wildlife monitoring, research, restoration, and conservation on the Outer Cape. Many of the projects focus on endangered or threatened species, or those that have declining populations. Piping plovers, least terns, diamondback terrapins, and horseshoe crabs are among the species studied.

The efforts of citizen science volunteers provide critical support to our science staff, as well as to the wildlife themselves. No previous experience is required; training provided.

Diamondback Terrapin Monitoring Project

Wellfleet Bay has been monitoring Outer Cape populations of the state-threatened diamondback terrapin since 1980. Volunteers are used in the spring to find terrapin nests and protect them with wire enclosures; and in the late summer to weigh, measure, count, and release hatchlings. Locations include Wellfleet and Orleans. The season runs May 15–October 1. 

More about our terrapin conservation work >

Wellfleet Bay Coastal Waterbird Program

Wellfleet Bay protects and monitors nesting piping plovers, least terns, common terns, and American oystercatchers at several private, state, and Mass Audubon-owned beaches between Truro and Chatham. Volunteers help record information related to mating activity, nest attempts, egg laying and hatching, chick survival, and reports on predator activity. Volunteers also have limited, but important, public interaction and education responsibilities. The season runs April 1–September 1, but mostly May–July.

Horseshoe Crab Surveys and Tagging

Since 1990, Wellfleet Bay has conducted research and monitoring related to horseshoe crab populations on the Outer Cape that has helped promote a sustainable fishery and guide local conservation efforts. Volunteers help conduct spawning surveys in both Wellfleet and Orleans. Volunteers are also needed to assist staff with tagging crabs and walking beaches to re-sight them later in season. Season runs April 15–July 1.

More about our horseshoe crab conservation work >

Oyster Reef Restoration

An experimental restoration of a wild oyster reef off Lieutenant Island, Wellfleet was established in 2007 by Wellfleet Bay and several partners including The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, and the Town of Wellfleet. This research project answers the questions “which substrate represents the best method for restoring oyster reefs in Wellfleet Bay, and how does a restored reef affect biodiversity?” Volunteer duties vary by season and year, but have included counting and measuring oysters and sampling for fish and invertebrates around the reef. The season runs April–November, but most help is needed in May and October.

Cape Cod Osprey Project

A volunteer-based effort to monitor and map as many osprey nests on Cape Cod as possible via Google Earth to record nest coordinates, and a data sheet to record nesting data. The season runs April–September.

Sea Turtle Stranding Beach Patrol

Search bayside beaches on Cape Cod for cold-stunned sea turtles and aid in their rescue. Volunteers are needed to be “on-call” to walk stretches of beach at high tides, locations based upon wind direction. Volunteers are also needed to drive rescued turtles to New England Aquarium in Quincy. Season runs November–December.

More about our sea turtle conservation work >

Ecological Management at Wellfleet Bay

Join Wellfleet Bay staff in field restoration work and other sanctuary projects that benefit wildlife populations. On-going, annual.