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Public Attitudes Towards the Seals of Nantucket

MAPP 2016 Student Externship Summary
Ren Bettencourt

I worked as a graduate research assistant for a pilot study on public attitudes towards seals on Nantucket. We gathered stakeholders’ perceptions, trying to understand the source of their viewpoints, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the protections provided to seals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act will remain in place. Listening to community members, some of whom have very different feelings about seals than I do, has provided an opportunity to reflect on how to best advocate for animals in a way that engages the entire community. For my final project, I wrote a documentary film treatment that focuses on reframing seals in a more positive light, highlighting their role as ecosystem engineers and sentinels of health. The full-scale study of stakeholder attitudes along the Massachusetts coast will take place next summer, and I hope to move forward with the making of the documentary as well.

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