The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies sits at the end of the land and the beginning of the sea. Our vantage point, at the tip of Cape Cod, allows us to work in the midst of an extraordinary ecosystem where all things converge. It is the place where the temperate zone and the sub-boreal zone meet, where the sandy shore knows its northernmost reach and the rocky shore is about to begin. The explosion of upwelling nutrients just offshore and the convergence of many habitats means an explosion of wildlife as well, a home to feed and breed for shorebirds and turtles, whales and dolphins, seals and ground fish, sponges and periwinkles, sea urchins and sand dollars.
From our field station in Provincetown on this narrow, sandy spit of land, we can easily voyage into the greater Gulf of Maine to work on issues of habitat protection, ecosystem management, marine mammal and marine wildlife conservation. We fly aerial surveys over Cape Cod Bay; survey the humpback feeding grounds of Jeffreys Ledge off New Hampshire and Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts; huddle over countless tables with shipping companies, municipal leaders, fishermen, and government officials to come up with new ways of solving old problems.
Our work carries us to collaborations throughout the Gulf of Maine with such institutions as the U.S. Coast Guard, McMaster University, the New England Aquarium, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We welcome them back to our Provincetown port as well, where scientists and managers, professors and policy makers can use our facilities in pursuit of a common goal: the preservation of marine habitats.
We believe the preservation of marine and coastal habitats and the recovery of species is crucial to the health of all life. But to care deeply about a world that we do not inhabit, about microscopic diatoms and plankton, about fiddler crabs and baleen whales whose lives are seemingly independent of our own, it is first necessary to know about them. It is this desire to know which drives our work, for we believe that the successful management and preservation of ecosystems depends on strong, detailed knowledge of species and their natural history. At the heart of our mission is conservation biology, what sociobiologist E.O. Wilson calls “a discipline with a deadline,” for what we do not save today may be gone tomorrow.