I founded BiodiversityWorks in 2011 because I saw a need for a conservation organization focused specifically on wildlife monitoring and research across the entire island of Martha’s Vineyard. I also saw a need for mentoring opportunities for young adults.

I envisioned a collaborative organization that promoted biodiversity conservation through participation. An organization that works with conservation groups, private landowners, federal and state agencies, citizens, students and scientists to ask questions and find answers together.

-Luanne Johnson

  • Luanne Johnson, PhD
    Luanne Johnson, PhD Director/Wildlife Biologist, Board Member

    I founded BiodiversityWorks because I saw the need for a conservation organization focused specifically on wildlife monitoring and research across the entire island of Martha’s Vineyard. I envisioned a collaborative organization that promoted biodiversity conservation through participation. An organization that works with conservation groups, private landowners, federal and state agencies, citizens, students and scientists to ask questions and find answers together. I was fortunate to find accomplished professionals in conservation, science, and education to become board members and join me in making this vision a reality.

    I have a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology from Antioch University New England, a B.S. in Zoology from Butler University, and 28 years of experience as a conservation biologist.

  • Liz Olson, M.S.
    Liz Olson, M.S. Assistant Director/Wildlife Biologist

    Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, I always wanted to work with a wildlife biologist and gain experience in the field, but that experience was not available then.  As a professional wildlife biologist, I wanted to provide interested young people with the opportunity I missed in high school and college. Co-founding BiodiversityWorks was a way to fulfill this wish as well as allow me to do work I am passionate about in a place I love.

    I have a B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in Conservation Biology from Antioch University New England. My thesis was on the Activity Patterns, Behavior, and Population Status of North American River Otters (Lontra canadensis) in a Northeast Coastal Environment.

  • Kayla Smith
    Kayla Smith Shorebird Conservation Coordinator

    Working for BiodiversityWorks as the Shorebird Conservation Coordinator and as a Wildlife Biologist is my dream job.  My passion for shorebirds, my wildlife degree from the University of New Hampshire, and practical field research experience focusing on endangered and understudied avian species in Massachusetts, Alaska, and Florida all prepared me for this position.  Whether I am searching for cryptic shorebird nests, conducting surveys of tern or skimmer colonies, radio tracking turtles, snakes, or bats, or teaching interns and volunteers field skills, I believe in the necessity and importance of the work we do to help protect the island’s biodiversity for future generations.  I grew up coming to the island each summer, but my parents moved here full-time when I was in college. I’m happy to call the island my home.

  • David Faber
    David Faber President - Board Member

    When I was asked to be a charter board member of BiodiversityWorks, I was honored and thrilled to be part of something so novel and critical. As an educator, I was especially excited about the educational potential for something like this right here on the Island, and beyond, for both the general public and in mentoring young people in conservation and wildlife biology careers.  The need to monitor and protect our vulnerable and diminishing biodiversity is more important now than ever, and our mission to cultivate an even larger, younger, better-prepared generation of environmental stewards is vital.

    In June of 2020 I retired from teaching 7th and 8th grade science at the Edgartown School, where I proudly taught since 1986. I earned my B.S. in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and my M.Ed. in Middle School Education from Leslie College in Cambridge, MA.

  • Walt Looney
    Walt Looney Treasurer - Board Member

    I think often about whether my grandchildren will be able to enjoy the wonderful diversity of nature we now have on the Vineyard – the multitude of shorebirds that pass through in the spring and fall, the scup, crabs and other species they love to catch from the Island’s docks, the marshes, meadows and forests. BiodiversityWorks has done a great job helping us understand and appreciate this diversity, and taking steps to preserve it. I joined the BiodiversityWorks board because I want to participate in this effort.

    I am a retired lawyer who has been interested in nature and environmental protection since my days as a boy scout. Much of my legal career was spent in Asia and Europe where I was involved in financing infrastructure development. A graduate of Boston College and Harvard Law School, I currently serve on the boards of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and one other conservation organization, and spend many spare hours hiking, birding and enjoying the outdoors.

  • Nelson Smith
    Nelson Smith Secretary/Clerk - Board Member

    I joined the board of Biodiversity Works for several reasons. Being a small organization with a professional staff of mostly longtime islanders, they
    have an intimate knowledge of our unique ecosystems. They focus on research and public education, working with homeowners to preserve habitat for often
    misunderstood and threatened species such as bats, turtles, snakes, frogs, moths and shorebirds. The organization’s primary focus on biodiversity conservation is an important service to our community.

    I’m a lifelong and native islander with roots going back about 12 generations. I earned a degree in Natural Resources and Conservation from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and worked as a land surveyor for almost 35 years. During that time, I served on the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary Advisory Board and helped Gus Ben David erect about half of the osprey poles on the island.

  • Margaret Curtin
    Margaret Curtin Board Member

    I became involved with BiodiversityWorks as a volunteer in the beach bird and marsh bird program the first year and have remained active as a volunteer since then.  I graduated from Smith College and work in architectural design. I moved here in the 1970’s and am an avid birder, participating in the Christmas Bird Counts every winter. To keep learning, I took a deep dive into botany a few years ago and continue to survey the wild plants of the Vineyard as part of a project supported by several conservation groups and Polly Hill Arboretum to update the Flora of MV. I served on the board of Vineyard Conservation Society many years ago, as well as on the Lagoon Pond Association, advocating for the importance of clean waterways. I am happy to be part of the BiodiversityWorks board today.

  • Christopher Neill, PhD
    Christopher Neill, PhD Board Member

    I enthusiastically support engaging the public in ecological science and conservation biology and I think that the projects that BWorks does are a great opportunity for combining hands-on experiences with projects that meet real and meaningful conservation priorities.

    I am a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Center. I study how changes to land use alter the structure and functioning of ecosystems. In the Amazon, I investigate how deforestation changes the way water and materials move from land to water and within the channels and streams and rivers and how the intensification of soybean and corn cropping alters runoff to streams and greenhouse gas emissions. In Massachusetts, where increases in residential development threaten estuaries and terrestrial ecosystems that contain high and unique biological diversity, I work with local conservation organizations to design improved methods of ecosystem conservation and restoration.

  • Mariah BenDavid
    Mariah BenDavid Board Member

    I was very lucky to start working with wildlife at a young age. As soon as I could, I worked with my grandfather, Gus BenDavid, at his World of Reptiles and Bird Park giving tours to visitors and caring for a wide variety of native and non-native species. Working with domestic fowl, amphibians, turtles and tortoises, birds of prey, waterfowl and even giant constrictors and other snakes I learned so much about their biology and conservation!

    Now, I’m working on my next big challenge, becoming a licensed plumber. It’s hard being the only active female plumber on Island at the moment, but it’s very rewarding.

    I’ve been so fortunate to have been raised and taught by some of the most brilliant educators and wildlife experts, and hope to use this to support and assist BiodiversityWorks in their mission now. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m so honored to be part of the board.

BiodiversityWorks is a 501c3 non-profit, established in 2011
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