Published on January 19, 2021

Property Manager is Sanctuary’s Ultimate First Responder

James and Tim O'Brien working on GP decking-reduced

Officially, James Nielsen is Wellfleet Bay’s property manager. But as any staff member or volunteer will tell you, the job title only begins to cover the many roles he fills and his numerous skills and talents.

James is marking his 20th year of service at Mass Audubon—15 years at Wellfleet Bay, three at Ipswich River and two at Moose Hill.

There is the property part of the job: James and his “eco-warrior” volunteers regularly whack away at invasive plants and participate in controlled burns to maintain Wellfleet Bay’s rare grasslands and heathlands. He removes dead trees, rips out trailside poison ivy, paints, vacuums, and cleans the nature center, the two dorms, and the camp ground.

The sanctuary also shines from his other labors. There’s almost nothing he hasn’t fixed, built or burnished: the new observation deck and boardwalk across Goose Pond; the children’s corner in the exhibit hall; and a burbling wildlife stream that meanders through the bird feeder area.

The job, like any, has its highs and lows, the yin and yang. A single day can include everything from pulling a cold-stunned sea turtle from the water and hanging a new education exhibit, to relentless raccoons chewing the roof and grisly freezer clean-outs.

James says one of the things he enjoys most about his work is getting the chance to take on new challenges and being part of the sanctuary’s many science projects. “A day that I learn something is always a good one.”