Wildlife Research, Monitoring & Mentoring

What is Natural Neighbors?

BiodiversityWorks and the Village and Wilderness Project have partnered to develop the Natural Neighbors program, with support from the Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship. Natural Neighbors works with individuals and neighborhood associations to learn about their interests in nature and identify current and potential biodiversity contributions on land they manage. Then, we’ll offer customized management recommendations to benefit plants, pollinators, and wildlife in your area. We’ll help you develop a stewardship plan compatible with your time and resources.

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Why do we need this program?

While Martha’s Vineyard has a lot of land in conservation, these properties aren’t enough to conserve the island’s flora and fauna into the future. Populations of plants and animals need to find each other, and private lands can provide vital habitat connectivity to help wildlife and plants move, mate, pollinate, and thrive. Many private landowners enjoy the plants and animals around their home and contact us to learn more about them or how to help them. Natural Neighbors has sprouted from the many requests we receive from our community members who want to know more about stewardship.

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Natural Neighbors is such a wonderful program that helps you assess your property to identify the habitats and plants that encourage biodiversity and suggests simple things you can do to further enhance your surroundings to attract more pollinators and wildlife.

It was fascinating to learn about my property from a knowledgeable and charming person with recommendations that I would never have thought of. I highly recommend setting up an appointment!

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The possibilities for expanded habitat that Angela identified were great. I now recognize more invasives which I can stabilize. And I’ll have ideas not only for my small meadow but for the landscaped areas around my house. Well worth my time.

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My site visit with Angela of Natural Neighbors was inspiring and cheering. It is so refreshing to talk about birds, pollinators, chipmunks, frogs, bats, and snakes. She had simple and insightful suggestions for increasing a variety of wildlife habitats (in my under 1-acre yard) that I look forward to implementing.

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It was a pleasure to share my garden with Angela and learn about all the biologically healthy choices that I’ve already made. She suggested next steps for making my garden even more hospitable to wildlife. I’m thinking now about the fauna as well as the flora. Make way for a snake board and water element!

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Thank you, Angela and Luanne, and to Biodiversity Works’ Natural Neighbors program, for a fascinating and educational exploration and walk through our property (field, forest, and wetlands).  It was extremely helpful to have your knowledgeable and practical advice on locations where specific native plants could be planted (providing berries for birds in the fall and winter seasons), and habitats for animals (such as nesting boxes for field swallows and bluebirds) established. And how exciting it was to find a Carolina wren nest with eggs, and hear the song of a Northern Parula!  I hope many other private landowners on the Vineyard will participate in this collaborative and useful effort for biodiversity conservation.

Become a Natural Neighbor

The Natural Neighbors Program helps our community create habitat for their own enjoyment and to support biodiversity. We work with individuals, neighborhoods, and community groups to customize plans, be they for single or multiple properties. Simply answer a few questions, and we’ll help you get started!

About the staff

Rich c w native plants

Rich Couse is the Program Director. He grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts and lives in West Tisbury. Rich has a B.A. from UMASS in English: Writing & Communications with a minor in Education, a M.C. in Publishing from Emerson College, and an M.S. in Environmental Sciences, Conservation Biology from Antioch University. Rich conducts site visits with support from Luanne Johnson and Tom Chase as needed.

Luanne Johnson is the Director of BiodiversityWorks and a wildlife biologist. She provides expertise on bats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

Tom Chase is the Executive Director of Village and Wilderness an organization that works to amplify the power of established organizations by creating innovative strategies to restore Martha’s Vineyard’s environment and foster an Island culture that stewards it. Tom advises on all aspects of the project and occasionally makes site visits.

Read Natural Neighbors Blog Posts

Become a Natural Neighbor

The Natural Neighbors Program helps private property owners create backyard habitats for their own enjoyment and to support biodiversity. We work with individuals, neighborhoods, and community groups to customize plans, be they for single or multiple properties. Simply answer a few questions, and we’ll help you get started!