If you were on a bay side beach in October, you may have noticed the abundance of washed up fish on the sand. I asked Owen about this, and he explained that the fish were Atlantic Saury. This time of year, there are a lot of predators in the water and a lot of little fish and things for them to eat (such as the saury). It’s typical to see some wash up on the shore, but the cause of so many washing up was the combination of running from predators, high winds and tides. He pointed out that some dolphins had also washed up due to this as well. The dolphins chasing their prey got caught up in the winds and tide causing them to wash up.
Who is Owen Nichols?
We all know that Brewster is a one of a kind community that is home to some beautiful beaches, walking trails and fantastic locally owned businesses. Leighton Realty also wanted to recognize and showcase some of the members of our community that not only make our town great, but also contribute to what makes Cape Cod and the Islands great. Our friend Owen Nichols is one of those people in our community keeping Cape Cod great. He is doing this by partnering the scientific community with the fishing community to come up with fishing practices that benefit not only the fishing families, but also protect the natural environment.
Owen Nichols was born in Boston, Mass and lived throughout the Cape, but grew up in the town of Brewster. In 1994, he graduated Nauset Regional High School and went on to the University of Rhode Island where he graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Affairs. Once Owen graduated college, he returned to Cape Cod where he worked for the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. During his time, he worked as an environmental educator.
His Career Begins
In 1999 Owen was recruited by the Center for Coastal studies to do an education program about whales. At that time, he started working as a naturalist on whale watches out of Provincetown where he got involved in the research of whales. He started as an intern for the right whale aerial survey program and worked his way up to program coordinator in a short amount of time. He conducted research on the ecology of the right whale and implications for management of shipping and fishing. Owen earned his masters for Marine Science and Technology from UMass Dartmouth in 2012. While working in the right whale aerial survey program, and earning his masters at UMass, he saw a need for a program at the Center for Coastal Studies that partnered the science and research community with the local fishing community.
With that idea in mind, he developed a plan for the Marine Fisheries Research Program at the Center for Coastal Studies which was ultimately approved. Owen was appointed director of the program in 2008, and it became a full time position at the Center for Coastal Studies in 2014. In addition to his work at the Center for Coastal Studies in the Marine Fisheries Research Program, from 2015 to present he is a Guest Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Currently he is a PhD candidate at UMass Dartmouth in Marine Science and Technology, finishing in the year 2017.
The Marine Fisheries Research Program at the Center for Coastal Studies brings fishermen and the research community together, since both parties have their own interests in a thriving Cape Cod waters. Fishermen contribute their knowledge and experience and the scientists apply their research and tools to work together to understand the ecosystem and develop best practices for the fishing community. Scientists want the environment to thrive because that is their focus, and the fishing community wants the environment to thrive because it is their livelihood on the line.
Owen has also done quite a bit of work with squid. There was some concern regarding the vulnerability of squid eggs in Nantucket Sound. Fishermen were concerned that squid eggs were exposed to fishing gear, causing them to die before having an opportunity to hatch. Owen is working with these fishermen in this area to understand the habits of squid hatching, where they go after they hatch and other related factors (such as water temperature) so that best practices in these areas at that time of year can be established to protect the squid.
Owen Nichols’ Accomplishments
On October 13, 2016 Owen received the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The award honors scientists early in their careers that work to benefit the fisheries in New England. Owen was chosen for this award due to his work to create a collaboration between the scientific community and fishing industry along with his research on squid ecology. You can often find Owen at the Snowy Owl working on his fieldwork or finishing up paperwork for school. His friends know where to find him, and often bring with them specimens or questions about what is going on with the water wildlife around us, especially these days with all of the marine activity. I know I did when meeting with him for this blog.
Owen has accomplished a lot in his 40 years on this Earth for not only the town of Brewster, but for Cape Cod as a whole. In addition to being an accomplished scientist in his field, as someone who has been a friend for almost 20 years, I can honestly say he is an over all great guy. He saw a real need for a program that linked fishermen and scientists to solve the gaps that both sides encountered doing their jobs in the field and created a program to better the Cape. The tools and research from the scientists studying the ecosystem with the experience and observations from the fishermen in the environment day in and out will definitely solve some problems within our delicate ecosystem so it is thriving for years to come.