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, 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.
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!
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.
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.
SECRETARY/CLERK - BOARD MEMBER
CHRISTOPHER NEILL, PHD
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 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.