Published on May 18, 2023

Cape Scientists Share a Day Camp Connection

Katie and Abby at camp_Katherine Castagno (3)

Once upon a time—in the mid-1990s—Abby Franklin and Katie Castagno met at Wellfleet Bay nature camp. Abby was a counselor and Katie was in kindergarten. Abby remembers Katie as a very enthusiastic camper who loved to explore the sanctuary’s extensive tidal flats. Katie recalls a craft activity. “We cut out and colored in a frog, and then attached it to a noise maker, so the frog's tongue would stick out when you blew on the noise maker. Lots of fun!”

Fast forward about 15 summers when Katie became a day camp counselor. Well before that, Abby had transitioned from camp counselor to teacher/naturalist for family programs at the sanctuary while pursuing studies in wildlife and fisheries conservation. Katie had taken her first geology course in college and loved it. “We went out and explored one afternoon every week for the whole semester and I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is just like camp!’”

The Influence of Wellfleet Bay

When Katie entered a master’s degree program at University of Rhode Island, she developed a project around salt marshes on the Outer Cape so that she could continue teaching day camp in the summer. “It was always incredible to start the week with a kid who was a bit cautious or afraid of the fiddler crabs or the mud, and then see that same kid by the end of the week, gleefully bringing me a fiddler crab they had picked up in the muck all by themselves.”

Abby—now Abigail Franklin Archer—also pursued a master’s degree. Today she’s the extension lead for Woods Hole Sea Grant and Fisheries & Aquaculture Specialist for Barnstable County. She says her time at Wellfleet Bay was a huge influence on her career path. “I often tell people I learned more during my time at the sanctuary than I did in high school! Volunteering and working at Mass Audubon was how I learned that I was most interested in whole organisms and their habitats—rather than cell biology and DNA and genetics.”


Abby and Katie grown up_reduced

The two women met up again about five years ago at a conference in Woods Hole. Katie told Abby she was pursuing a PhD at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Abby says she was honored when she was invited to attend Katie’s dissertation defense. “That’s when I got to see her parents again,” Abby says. “The last time I had seen them was when they were dropping off kindergarten Katie (at camp)!”

Today Katie is director of the Land-Sea Interaction Program at the Center for Coastal Studies where she’s doing work on coastal resilience, salt marsh restoration and sediment transport. “I spend a great deal of my time studying salt marshes and also getting covered in mud, just like I did at the sanctuary!”


Photos of Abby and Katie: The top photo shows Abby (at right) and Katie (in the flower top) at day camp in 1995. The second photo was taken this year while both were doing field work on their own research projects in Wellfleet Harbor, where their love for salt marshes and tidal flats began!