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2018 Annual Guide: Provincetown

Stormy Mayo Provincetown

Photo by Paige Biviano

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Mayo. “When I am studying right whales, I am also studying plankton. Whether we are charting population distribution, breeding grounds, habitats or migratory behaviors, the quantity and quality of their principal food source is always going to be recorded and considered as an important health factor.”

Mayo points out that the outlook for these rare whales is bleak, given a decrease in birthing rates and an increase in mortality rates. The latter is predominantly a result of ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear, both human causes.

There is a great deal that Mayo and his team of aerial photographers, pilots and boat crew do not understand; most notably, the team is working to determine the ideal characteristics of an ecosystem that could support a stable right whale population.

The Center for Coastal Studies will continue to document right whale behavior, climate conditions, and ecological conditions in Cape Cod Bay, and Mayo will continue to speak publicly and candidly about right whale conservation.

In addition to being seafarers and scientists, Mayo has added a third component to the family legacy: caring for his garden of dahlias. He started planting dahlias the year his first wife died; they were her favorite flower, and he could think of nothing else to do. Now they are an integral part of his summer days.

His yard blooms with several hundred hybrids of dahlias, with different color combinations, petal shapes, heights and sizes, all of which demand high-maintenance cultivation throughout the year. He maintains a separate bed of dahlias on Bradford Street for the enjoyment of locals and visitors.

“I am, in the simplest of terms, a fanatic,” he says. That’s a good thing for the dahlias—and the whales.

Kristina Atsalis is an editorial intern for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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