Wellfleet Bay Veteran Melissa Lowe Cestaro to Succeed Bob Prescott as Wildlife Sanctuary Director
Michael P. O'Connor
WELLFLEET—Mass Audubon has named Melissa Lowe Cestaro new director of the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, succeeding Bob Prescott, who has served in the position nearly 40 years. She will be only the third person to occupy the post since Mass Audubon, the state’s largest nature conservation nonprofit, acquired the property in 1959.
Lowe Cestaro will assume her new post on September 16th.
A 25-year veteran of Mass Audubon and environmental education, Lowe Cestaro worked for much of that time as Wellfleet Bay’s education director and public programs coordinator.
She oversaw special programs for adults and colleges, and coordinated the wildlife sanctuary’s annual Cape Cod Natural History Conference as well as other community events focused on science and ecology.
“It is such an incredible honor to be chosen as Wellfleet Bay’s next director,” Lowe Cestaro said. “The sanctuary is a product of Bob’s tireless direction and vision, as well as the staff’s hard work, and the support of volunteers, members, and so many others. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to build on this legacy.”
During Prescott’s long tenure at Wellfleet Bay, the sanctuary grew substantially both in physical size and in its programs and outreach. The property, situated on Cape Cod Bay in South Wellfleet, originally comprised about 300 acres, and has grown to include more than a thousand acres.
A LEED platinum nature center, completed in 2006, become a net-zero building in 2018 with the installation of 120 additional solar panels. This spring, a recharging station for electric vehicles was installed. Prescott also created numerous wildlife conservation programs, including the sanctuary’s renowned rescue program for endangered sea turtles, which has received international attention.
Mary Griffin, Mass Audubon’s Regional Director for the Southeast, Cape and Islands, expects Lowe Cestaro’s return to Wellfleet Bay will ensure a smooth transition.
“Given Melissa’s long history with environmental education, the pivotal roles she has played to help the sanctuary grow, and her love and understanding of Wellfleet Bay’s community—the land and its people—we believe that she is the right person to guide the sanctuary forward with passion, skill, creativity, and commitment,” Griffin said.
As he steps down as sanctuary director, Prescott will assume the role of director emeritus and continue to oversee several of the sanctuary’s most successful conservation efforts, including sea turtle rescues; monitoring diamondback terrapins, another vulnerable turtles species; , and advocating for a ban on horseshoe crab harvests in Wellfleet Bay.
Prescott views Lowe Cestaro’s background as ideal for leading the wildlife sanctuary. “With education at the core of Mass Audubon’s mission, I can’t think of anyone who has devoted so much of their professional life to environmental education for all ages,” Prescott said of his successor. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for Melissa and for the sanctuary. On to the next chapter of Wellfleet Bay!”
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 160,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.