Category Archives: General

4 Leaders to Learn About During Black Futures Month

Black scientists and leaders have always been at the forefront of leading change in wildlife conservation, advocating for environmental justice, and creating access to nature.  

Back in 1896, the renowned scientist George Washington Carver established an agriculture department at Tuskegee University to research soil degradation and teach alternative farming methods. 

In 1903, Colonel Charles Young became the first Black National Park Superintendent and was a true steward of the land by working to preserve the ancient, namesake trees in Sequoia National Park.  

Later in the 20th century, Hazel Johnson, known as the Mother of Environmental Justice, stood in the oval office as President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 to identify and protect environmental justice communities at a federal level.  

During Black History Month, we are reminded of the lasting impacts Carver, Young, Johnson, and many other historical Black American leaders have had on our environment. To build off of these powerful stories and honor Black Futures Month, here are four people making history today. 

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Perez Jackson is a chemical engineer who began her career at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987. She worked in the public sector in roles spanning from staff-level positions to Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her as Administrator of the EPA, making her the first Black person to hold that position. 

During her time as Administrator, Jackson focused on improving air and water quality, eliminating greenhouse gases, and expanding outreach to communities on environmental issues. 

Today, Jackson is Vice President of Environmental, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple. She oversees Apple’s efforts to address climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using green materials, and inventing new ways to conserve resources. 

Lisa Jackson

Additionally, Jackson leads Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative — focused on education, economic opportunity, and criminal justice reform — and is responsible for Apple’s education policy programs, its product accessibility work, and its worldwide government affairs function. 

She was named as one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People” in 2019 and named a “Game Changer” by Vogue Australia in 2018.

Jerome Foster II

Voices like Jerome Foster II prove that teenagers and young adults have the power to make a change on a national level. When the Biden administration created the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in 2021, Foster was chosen to represent young people and the Northeast Region of the US. Foster became the youngest-ever White House Advisor in United States history at age 18. According to the White House, council members like Foster provide valuable insight into how the Federal Government should tackle the climate crisis and advance environmental justice especially for disadvantaged communities. 

Jerome wears a blue shirt with a globe on it while talking into a microphone.
Jerome Foster II

He served as intern for the late Honorable John Lewis at 16-years old and served as Board Member for the DC State Board of Education’s High School Graduation Requirements Task Force at 15. He is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director at Waic Up which is an international communication to community impact charity that is an expansion of OneMillionOfUs, which mobilized a movement of young people to vote in the 2020 Presidential Elections.

Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru 

Another influential young climate activist, Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru, has almost a decade of experience in environmental and climate activism. Gatheru is the daughter of Agĩkũyũ (an ethnic group in Kenya) Kenyan immigrants and at a young age was taught to give back to the earth and care for the planet. Combining this appreciation for the Earth with a passion sparked by an environmental science class she took when she was 15, Gatheru made it her mission to elevate the importance of the climate movement and make it more accessible and inclusive for all. 

At the University of Connecticut, Gatheru co-founded the UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE) to combat campus food insecurity. She spearheaded numerous other environmental efforts throughout her time at UConn, eventually leading her to become the first Black person to receive the Rhodes, Truman, and Udall Scholarships. 

Wawa centered with her hands on her heart as the adults around her clap their hands.
Wawa Gatheru honored at the State House of Representatives in Hartford for becoming University of Connecticut’s first Rhodes Scholar © Peter Morenus

In 2021, Gatheru created Black Girl Environmentalist (BGE) to support Black girls, women, and non-binary people in the environmental field. BGE creates opportunities for Black community members to succeed as environmentalists by offering online and in-person programs, workshops, mentorships, and other educational resources.  

Kai Lightner

At the age of six, Kai Lightner found the perfect outlet to focus his ADHD on a physical and mental task: rock climbing. Climbing quickly ignited a passion within Lightner and he successfully competed nationally and internationally, winning 12 national championships (2 adult; 10 youth), 5 Pan American Championships (1 adult; 4 youth), and 1 Youth World Championship.  

Kai stands in the forefront on a rock with his hands in his pockets and a blue jacket. In the background, we can see people at the base of a massive boulder.
Kai Lightner © Ted Distel

Throughout his time competing, Lightner grew his appreciation for new places and different cultures and wanted other young adults and youth to have the same opportunities. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Lightner recognized inequitable access to outdoor industries like climbing for underserved communities. In response, he created Climbing for Change (C4C), a nonprofit that supports kids with backgrounds like his to excel in rock climbing and bridge the gap between underserved minorities and outdoor activities. To learn more about Kai or C4C, visit or 

Making a Local Impact 

As we reflect on the strides that many of these scientists and activists have taken to advance equitable access to nature, community health and safety, and environmental advocacy, we also recognize that the work is far from done. You can learn about and support local Black-led environmental justice groups like:

Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)

The Rusty Anvil

Community Action Works

Neighbor 2 Neighbor

Family holding hands on a path in the woods.

To learn more about other Mass Audubon Diversity and Equity initiatives and programs, visit our Diversity & Inclusion page.   

The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.

10 Fall Hikes in Massachusetts

In the distance, a Red-bellied Woodpecker drums on a tree for food while a plump squirrel scampers through the browning leaf litter on the forest floor. A Broad-winged Hawk shrieks somewhere in the grasslands beyond the tree line, and a small garter snake slithers quietly through the commotion. What other sights and sounds can you experience during a fall hike? Find out by exploring these 10 trails. 

Trail with Still Waters 

See a cloudy sky reflecting off the glass-like waters of the Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in Falmouth along the Grassy Pond Trail. Walk around the entire pond while listening to birds high in the trees. Before heading back, take a break on the wooden benches of the Grassy Pond Overlook to soak in the tranquility of the site. 

Along the bank of a pond stands a mix of green pines and bare trees. Yellow Brown stick and leaf litter cover the area near the water.
Grassy Pond at Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary

Ponds, Saltmarshes, and Beaches 

On Martha’s Vineyard, almost every trail at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary passes some form of water—combine three of the trails to circle the perimeter of the Sanctuary. Start on Sassafras Trail to cross over Turtle Pond, then continue along Shad Trail to stand on the shore of Major’s Cove on Sengekontacket Pond and meander along the beach. Link back with the Sassafras Trail to rest on a bench overlooking the Pond, then discover the Marsh Trail with dramatic views of State Beach and Moffett Cove beyond the tidal salt marshes. 

Take the Boardwalk Less Traveled 

Walk along almost half a mile of boardwalks, over a marsh and a river on the River Walk at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield. Look for fall and winter sparrows like the White-throated, Field, Swamp, American tree, and Song sparrows, in the maple forest and shrubby thickets. 

Wooden boardwalk curves to the right between bare trees.
Boardwalk at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary

A Fall Sense for Sensory Trails 

Watch waterfowl like Hooded Mergansers and American Black and Ring-necked ducks cruise the shallow waters of Kingfisher Pond and Teal Marsh from the boardwalk on the Sensory Trail at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk. The boardwalk also has a deck that overlooks both the pond and marsh, before continuing to Beech Grove Trail. 

Rock and Roll 

You could easily spend the whole day wandering through the 12 miles of trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, but make sure you spend some time in the Rocky Grotto on the Rockery Trail. The narrow caves and spiraling rock pathways were built in 1905 by Thomas Proctor, who started living at the estate in the late 1890s. The loop around the Rockery Pond is surrounded by a mix of native and non-native trees, which was once a private arboretum built by Proctor.  

Two adults and a child smile as they pass under a passage made of large rocks.
Rocky Grotto at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary © Jared Leeds

Lone Wolf Legend Walk 

Massachusetts has plenty of predators like coyotes, bobcats, and black bears, but our forests are free from the howling packs of hungry wolves. According to local lore at the High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne, the last wolf that lived in the area lived at a geological feature named Wolve’s Den, found at the corner of North Trail and Wolve’s Den Loop Trail. As you travel along the trail, think of how different our wildlife and ecosystems may have been just 200 years ago, when the last wolf sighting in Massachusetts was recorded.  

Enchanted by History 

Other evidence of life from 200 hundred years ago can be seen from the Enchanted Forest Trail at Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester. Weave between remnants of stone walls built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, then make your way to the Sagatabscot Ridge Trail where a small quarry is located on the western end near the Piggery Trail.  

Looking at a path that crosses over a crumbled part of a rock wall. The treetops have some green, but the forest floor is covered with orange and brown leaves.
Stone wall at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Don’t Overlook This Spot 

At the overlook site on Fox Trail at Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan, you can feel right in the center of the wetlands by being surrounded by native cattails. Make sure to bring (or borrow) binoculars to look out across the area for any Red-tailed Hawks. 

Seven Viewing Areas, One Sanctuary 

There are seven observation sites at the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, six of which are in the first half mile from the nature center. To get to the seventh overlook, you have to get on Little Farm Pond Trail, which starts at the 3-car parking lot off Farm Road just east of the intersection with Lake Street in Sherborn. The trail leads you to a 0.3-mile loop, with benches on the eastern lookout of Little Farm Pond. 

The corner of a wooden dock, overlooking a pond. Plant poke out of the water, and the pond is surrounded by green trees.
Overlook area at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

A Special Habitat 

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet is home to some of the rarest habitats on Cape Cod. Take the Try Island trail to pass Mockernut Hickories and Black Oak trees that are nearly 100 years old. This trail is a short loop that offers salt marsh overlooks and expansive views of Wellfleet Harbor. 

To find more trails, visit