Living and Working in Boston Harbor’s Islands

Living and Working in Boston Harbor’s Islands

Hello! My name is Pranneil Thankavel, a MOSAICS intern this Summer. In these blogs I would love to share my thoughts and experiences from living and working in the Boston Harbor. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, very far from any ocean (not counting the great Lake Michigan). I go to school at UW Madison, learning about conservation biology and environmental studies along with a certificate in global health. I am also the son of Indian immigrants, and I deeply hope that through my work in conservation I can help to promote the extraordinary character of diversity to the field — a cause which will influence how successful we will be in our grander environmental and human ambitions. 

Manitou River, Minnesota

I grew up playing in the woods. Burying treasure and digging for bugs, a sense of natural wonder sprouted early. As I got older I’ve been astounded by the quietude of the Northwoods; hypnotized by the sway of birch and maple and the drift of falling seeds. Being intimately with nature has touched me, moved me and healed me greatly. I feel that natural spaces endowed with beauty and peace are very useful for people to come back to themselves and live happier lives. I only wish that everyone had better access to the wonderful National Parks in our country, where this great aspect of nature is often found.

A few years ago I was blessed to go to Belize and study coral reef ecosystems for a while. I found a childlike joy in that sandy place, where the deep and wild ocean touches the familiarity of land. From the sea, I sensed that people drew a certain freshness and vitality, not to mention a wealth of culture and certainly cuisine. Since then I have developed a love for coastal ecosystems and the resources they provide to people. 


 Glover’s Research Station, Glover’s Atoll, Belize

My home – along with almost twenty other seasonal interns – is the old Marine Barracks, completed in 1811.



I think it is important for urban populations to have access to natural spaces. I was very happy and excited to learn that Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park (BoHa for short) is so close to Boston’s Downtown and is quite accessible to it’s residents. The park consists of 34 beautiful islands and peninsulas. The land has a long history of human use. The Massechusett tribe used it for Summer residences and resources for many thousands of years before European settlers arrived. The Massechusett have survived to this day, although no longer on the islands.



The Massechusett were forced away from the area and eventually the islands were utilized by settlers for cultivation as well as later military construction. Fort Warren is a civil war era complex which housed confederate prisoners of war, and was used until WWII as a training ground. Fort Andrew housed artillery guns and hosted Italian prisoners of war in WWII. Boston Light found on Little Brewster Island is the oldest  continually operated light station in the country, and has guided ships safely into Boston for hundreds of years.

The remains of Peddocks Island’s Fort Andrew. You might recognize the scenery from Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010) 

Former artillery housing on Peddocks Island

Thank you for taking the time to read about the start of my journey this Summer in Boston. I am so excited to see what will happen, and what I will learn. 

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