A Meeting of Land and Sea


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Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard

David R. Foster; Illustrations by Brian R. Hall; Photography by David R. Foster

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An eminent ecologist shows how an iconic New England island has been shaped by nature and human history, and how its beloved landscape can be protected

Full of surprises, bedecked with gorgeous photographs and maps, and supported by unprecedented historical and ecological research, this book awakens a new perspective on the renowned New England island Martha’s Vineyard. David Foster explores the powerful natural and cultural forces that have shaped the storied island to arrive at a new interpretation of the land today and a well-informed guide to its conservation in the future.
Two decades of research by Foster and his colleagues at the Harvard Forest encompass the native people and prehistory of the Vineyard, climate change and coastal dynamics, colonial farming and modern tourism, as well as land planning and conservation efforts. Each of these has helped shape the island of today, and each also illuminates possibilities for future caretakers of the island’s ecology. Foster affirms that Martha’s Vineyard is far more than just a haven for celebrities, presidents, and moguls; it is a special place with a remarkable history and a population with a proud legacy of caring for the land and its future. 

David R. Foster is a faculty member in biology, Harvard University, and director of the 4,000-acre Harvard Forest. He also serves on the board of the Edey Foundation and Trustees of Reservations on Martha’s Vineyard. He divides his time between Petersham and West Tisbury, MA.

"From his years of first-hand observations and thorough research, in combination with an exceptional ability for making what he has to say clear and compelling, David R. Foster has given us not only a different way of looking at the landscape and history of Martha’s Vineyard, but also at history and our human settings overall—and the inevitable influences of the past on the future. All in all, with its superb maps and marvelous photographs, A Meeting of Land and Sea is a stunning achievement."—David McCullough

"Opening this book is like opening a vault filled with discoveries about the natural and human history of a magnificent island. David Foster has created an important and unique work, a journey through time, about the creation and future of a magical place."—Jeff Fager, Executive Producer, 60 Minutes

"David Foster has created what is indisputably the most important volume about Martha's Vineyard ever written."—Paul Schneider, editor of Martha's Vineyard Magazine and author of The Enduring Shore, A History of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard,and Nantucket

"Even for those of us who do not live on the island, the idea of Martha’s Vineyard—people living in harmony with natural beauty—inspires. David Foster shows us how this waking dream is threatened, but also offers hope that the Vineyard can still offer an example of peaceful co-existence and kinship between humans and the rest of nature. A beautiful book."Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle

"This book is a masterwork that uses one small island to share the news of thousands of years of relations among people, land, and sea. Intimate and global as well as a history, almanac, atlas, and handy reference, A Meeting of Land and Sea is natural history that reads like a novel.  It is an epic in which to wander for hours."Jesse H. Ausubel, Director, Program for the Human Environment, Rockefeller University

"It is remarkable in the breadth of material woven together into that history. . . . The manuscript is a tour de force."—Charles D. Canham, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

"David’s perspective is unique and important. He combines history and ecology in a way that brings special meaning to special places.  This book could help guide the next chapter in the island’s history."—John D. Aber, University of New Hampshire

"[A] deeply researched, thorough, and hopeful examination of how the island has been shaped by man and nature over time—and how we might best think about preserving it."—Boston Globe

"A comprehensive look at the natural history of the Island."—Martha’s Vineyard Times

"Lush and handsome, both exhaustive in its exploration of the island’s natural landscape and profoundly considerate of the human impact—past, present and future—upon that landscape."—Alexandra Styron, Wall Street Journal

"Foster . . . brings his insight from his life-long work to this volume."—Choice

"A rich and compelling collection of maps and photographs, charts and graphs, science and local stories that provide a new perspective on the singular and iconic island, its past and present, and in the offing, its future."—Martha’s Vineyard Magazine

"A fascinating study of the Vineyard’s history, ecology and development."—Cape Cod Times

Won the 2018 Prose Award in Environmental Science
ISBN: 9780300214178
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
352 pages, 10.25 x 8.5
314 color illus.
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