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, community members, students and scientists to ask questions and find answers together.
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, community members, 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 30 years of experience as a conservation biologist.
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.
PROGRAM DIRECTOR - MARTHA'S VINEYARD ATLAS OF LIFE
My earliest memories are of moments of delight inspired by wildlife. In the decades since those moments, I’ve spent as much time as possible appreciating the natural world. So I’m excited to be part of BiodiversityWorks, with its clear focus on wildlife conservation, education, and research.
There is no better place to be a naturalist than Martha’s Vineyard! With its unique geology and human history, the Vineyard supports a wealth of interesting species and unusual habitats. If you live or visit here, you will enrich your life by spending time in nature. By supporting BiodiversityWorks and contributing to our wildlife studies, you can help document and protect the biodiversity that makes the Vineyard so special.
A year-rounder on the Vineyard since 1997, my academic background is in literature, but I’ve studied and written about wildlife from birds to beetles. I hope you’ll join me in exploring the natural diversity of this incomparable place!
PROGRAM DIRECTOR - NATURAL NEIGHBORS
I’m a conservation biologist and a firm believer that everything is connected through the ecological web of life. Thus, I want to create meaningful connections between people and nature through stewardship, research, education, and the arts. Natural Neighbors is a perfect opportunity for me to pursue this work. My path to becoming the Natural Neighbors Program Director reflects a fascination with all creatures. I’ve studied the effects of mercury poisoning in marsh nesting birds in Maine, the spatial ecology of Eastern hognose snakes on Cape Cod, protected piping plovers and least terns on Massachusetts beaches, and participated in research on the state-threatened frosted elfin-butterfly and the federally-endangered New England cottontail rabbit. I served as the first executive director of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch in Northern Michigan and have been the raptor counter at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory for several years before I came to work with the Nature Conservancy on Martha’s Vineyard in July of 2022 in their Stewardship department. I’m active in the MV Bird Club and am fascinated with the island’s biodiversity. I’m excited to make my home here.
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.
CHRISTOPHER NEILL, PHD
SECRETARY/CLERK - 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.
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.
My personal passion is birding—I have birded in ~80 countries, many of which are “developing”. I see a crying need to change the way we think about the environment to a more sustainable development model where people and nature can co-exist. Our future depends on it.
My career has been in financial services, leading global businesses in the asset management world. I have recently retired, but have parlayed that experience into several Treasurer, Finance and Investment Committee roles at a variety of conservation NGO’s. I am transitioning from being a part-time resident on Martha’s Vineyard to making the island my year-round home.
My involvement in BiodiversityWorks came from the springboard of helping launch the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club, where I currently serve as Treasurer. I credit my Mom and Uncle Nick for inspiring my love of birds and the natural world, and that love has only increased since I began spending time on the island during my college years. The diversity of habitats here is awe-inspiring and helping preserve it for our and future generations is of great importance to me. I’m happy to join the board and take a more active role in this community.
While my primary residence is in Princeton, New Jersey, and my day job in financial services is in New York City, I look forward to spending more and more time on the island as each year goes by. I’m happy to stay connected to the natural world in N.J. where I serve as Chairman of The Friend of Rogers Refuge — a volunteer group that maintains the marsh and trails and acts as stewards for the Charles H Rogers Wildlife Refuge that was created in 1968.
I grew up as the daughter of a Foreign Service officer so I lived much of my youth in Europe and Africa and have been lucky enough to travel widely since then. The one constant in my life has been a passion for the out of doors coupled with a curiosity and wonder about the biodiversity I’ve encountered. Here on the island, I especially love exploring the salt water marshes next to our seasonal home and finding endless surprises on the beaches and trails. Serving on the board of BiodiversityWorks is a perfect way for me to pursue my interest here on the island with grandchildren by my side and be sure the island’s wildlife remains for their children to enjoy. I have an M.A. in Conservation Biology from Columbia University and currently serve on the board of the Woodwell Climate Research Center in addition to BiodiversityWorks. Most recently I’ve been a board member of the New York chapter of The Nature Conservancy and The Brooklyn Community Foundation.
I first began working with BiodiversityWorks in the summer of 2013 as a summer intern, returning for a total of 4 seasons. Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, I always knew I had a passion for wildlife, and the outdoors, but my summers working with BiodiversityWorks is one of the reasons I pursued a degree in Conservation Biology at Warren Wilson College. The field experiences and mentorship I gained helped me in college, and prepared me for wildlife research jobs after I graduated.
I am a coastal ecology researcher at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, in Brunswick Georgia, where my focus is working with Gopher Tortoises. In my position, we work closely with a heavy mineral sands mining company and state agencies to conduct species surveys and wildlife relocation on mining lands prior to mining. As part of our relocation work we study the effects of relocation and suitability of reclaimed sites for gopher tortoise populations. I am also able to assist with a variety of other field projects including American Alligator and Eastern Indigo snake research, and a sea level rise monitoring program.