Sandra L. Macfarlane, MS ’99

In Search of Quahaugs

‘Where did all the quahaugs go?’ Is both a chapter title in Sandy Macfarlane’s newly published book, Rowing Forward, Looking Back, and the question that launched her 25-year career as a shellfish biologist with the town of Orleans, Massachusetts. Her book chronicles her career, beginning with those first concerns for the hardshell clam population in Pleasant Bay, but it also tells her story. And her story unquestionably portrays her passion for the marine environment, her love of the many estuaries of Cape Cod and how this AUNE alumna has made a difference.

Learning to tell the story is something she credits to Antioch University New England. A nature writing course taught by Fred Taylor, challenged her to put her thoughts and feelings into her writing. As a biologist, it was completely foreign, she says. Added encouragement from the association, Friends of Pleasant Bay, put her on the path to writing the book which has received acclaim among those written about the Cape for good reason. States one review, It is a wonderfully written evocation of an environmental situation from someone right down in the mud of the bay, wrestling with the problem. Although this is one woman’s story, the issues at the heart of it are germane in any highly developed coastal community.

As the first municipal shellfish biologist in the state and later a conservation administrator for Orleans, Sandy’s knowledge of the Cape Cod estuaries gave her insights to the environmental damage being wrought by unprecedented land development. Her course work in Resource Management & Conservation challenged her critical thinking about issues such as group dynamics and building sustainable organizations. After graduating she became a consultant, using her skills to facilitate meetings of disgruntled stakeholders, to develop a course for scallop restoration projects for the county, and to investigate political and regulatory aspects of issuing permits for private docks in public waters. Today, Sandy continues to be an outspoken advocate in her community for protecting the environmental integrity of those priceless and beautiful bays and coves.

From spending childhood summers on the Cape, to digging up quahaugs off the bottom of the bay, to building quahaug outhouses and propagating shellfish in a labSandy Macfarlane’s love for the Cape and desire to protect it has made a significant difference. Her book takes Sandy’s work one step further as it educates Cape Codders about the fragile ecosystem they love.
Published by the Friends of Pleasant Bay, Rowing Forward, Looking Back is available through the Antioch University New England Bookstore, in local bookstores on Cape Cod, and online at

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