Category Archives: In Your Words

A portrait photo of Nia Keith leaning on a fence in front of a green field with bird boxes in the background. Location: Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln

In Your Words: Nia Keith

Mass Audubon’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

A portrait photo of Nia Keith leaning on a fence in front of a green field with bird boxes in the background. Location: Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln
Nia Keith, Mass Audubon VP for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln.

My journey with Mass Audubon has traveled a spiral path. My life and career have taken me to lots of new and exciting opportunities, but I always seem to circle back to Mass Audubon. I first became familiar with the organization in graduate school, looking for a place to conduct research. I was attending Antioch University New England for environmental studies when I stumbled across Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester. I spent many hours over the course of a semester rambling through the forest, cataloging flora, and developing a fondness for the dedicated and friendly staff.

At the time, it never occurred to me that I would become an employee. As luck would have it, Mass Audubon hired me two years later as an environmental educator in the city of Lawrence. I ran programs for children and teens, led schoolyard gardening initiatives, and mentored youth leaders. When the grant cycle that funded my position came to its close, I prepared to move on in my career, thoroughly enriched by my experience with Mass Audubon.

Over the next 10 years, I specialized in science education, becoming a certified middle school science teacher and, eventually, advancing to director of professional development at the Museum of Science in Boston. Although I loved the work I was doing, I felt the need to return to my environmental justice roots. In 2020, I came back to Mass Audubon, but this time as statewide climate change education manager. It’s impossible to address climate change without also addressing the societal injustices at the root of the issue. To this end, I focused my work on climate justice, regularly engaging people in conversations about equity and access to nature. Before too long, I was asked to be a lead contributor to the development of Mass Audubon’s new Action Agenda, focusing on DEIJ initiatives and goals. In July of 2021, I was promoted to vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.  

Nia Keith taking in the view at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown
Nia Keith taking in the view at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown

The thing I love most about Mass Audubon, and why I returned, is the people who engage in our work. From the volunteers to the board to the staff, we are surrounded by dedicated and passionate people. Every day, I get to work alongside some of the most creative and talented professionals in the field. Both my professional and personal growth have been enhanced by the relationships I’ve built with my colleagues.

The current leg of my Mass Audubon journey is a critical one, both for me and for the organization. For years, Mass Audubon has worked to address issues of diversity and inclusion, but this is the first time that this work has been elevated to an executive-level position and given such a prominent role at the heart of all our work. I’m proud of Mass Audubon’s commitment to creating a more just and equitable world for everyone and so excited to be the new VP for DEIJ.

I don’t know where the next turn of the spiral path will take me, but I hope it’s paved with equity and access to nature for all.


In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected]  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

Volunteers Lisa Meeks (left) and Jan Spence plant the final shrub—a winterberry—at a ceremony celebrating the completion of the Tidmarsh restoration project.

In Your Words: Lisa Meeks

Volunteers Lisa Meeks (left) and Jan Spence plant the final shrub—a winterberry—at a ceremony celebrating the completion of the Tidmarsh restoration project.
Volunteers Lisa Meeks (left) and Jan Spence plant the final shrub—a winterberry—at a ceremony celebrating the completion of the Tidmarsh restoration project.

“Hi, my name is Lisa and I’d like to volunteer here.” When I first introduced myself to the newly hired sanctuary director at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Plymouth, the site wasn’t even open to the public yet. I met Lauren Kras at a “sneak peek” event where she was leading the public on tours of the former cranberry farm-turned-sanctuary and demonstrating just how extensive the largest freshwater ecological restoration project in the Northeast really was. Several months later, I was volunteering for the first time, at an open house event.

My second volunteer experience was a little rougher— it even had me briefly questioning my decision to be a volunteer. The task was invasive plant removal— specifically, the purple loosestrife that was encroaching on part of the wetlands. I should have been a bit suspicious when I showed up and was the only volunteer there to help the staff. It seemed simple enough though: dig up the plants, place in a bag, and repeat. The complicating factor was the weather—it was a hot, humid, August day and there were only a few small trees to provide shade. After several long, sweaty hours and many full bags, we were finally done. I thought, “Anything else I can do to volunteer at the sanctuary has to be easier than that!”

Native plants are thriving at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary as nature reclaims the former cranberry farm
Native plants are thriving at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary as nature reclaims the former cranberry farm

It’s three years later and I’m still volunteering. What I like is the variety of things I’ve been able to do: education programs, trail building, general clean-up, counting herring, planting pollinator gardens, installing benches, serving as trail steward, and planting trees and shrubs in a newly restored area.

Recently, another longtime volunteer, Jan Spence, and I had the honor of planting the final shrub at the ceremony celebrating the completion of the restoration project. It was a special moment, but honestly, the best part of being a volunteer is working with the staff. In the beginning, there was just Lauren. Each new person has been an excellent addition to the team. And we truly are a team, volunteers and staff, with a common goal of making Tidmarsh the best sanctuary it can be.

Which is why, when walking the trails, I proudly wear my name tag that identifies me as a Tidmarsh volunteer.

Jan’s Story

Lisa’s volunteer partner, Jan Spence, has her own story to tell about why she volunteers at Tidmarsh—read about it here.


In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected]  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!