2018 Annual Guide: Provincetown
A day in the life of: Stormy Mayo, founder and director of the Right Whale Ecology Program, Center for Coastal Studies
By Kristina Atsalis
Since the 1600s, there has been a member of the Mayo family living in Provincetown. That tradition is currently upheld by Charles Mayo, Ph.D., who has answered to the name “Stormy” since early childhood—a name befitting a child born on his father’s schooner in the midst of a storm. Mayo now has a 20th-century-style schooner of his own, which can be seen in the water at Macmillan Pier bearing the same name as his father’s: Istar.
The story behind Mayo’s handcrafted wooden schooner is well known in the local community, as is the history of Mayo fishers and whalers, but Stormy Mayo has added a new dimension to the family name: He is internationally recognized by the scientific community for his development of disentanglement techniques used to free right whales ensnared in fishing gear and for his ongoing research on the ever-dwindling population of this rare creature. He is director of the Right Whale Ecology Program at the Center for Coastal Studies, which he founded in partnership with his late wife, Dr. Barbara Shuler Mayo, and their peer, Dr. Graham Giese, in 1976.
Mayo’s ecological career began in Miami, where he chose to research zooplankton, one of the most fundamental and abundant sources of food in the oceanic ecosystem. Making the switch from observing a microscopic organism with a booming population to a near-extinct 50-foot mammal may seem disjointed, but the two are tightly intertwined, as North Atlantic right whales come here to feed on the abundant plankton in Cape Cod Bay.
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