Mass Audubon Council Member and Photography Instructor
Around 1987, I started with just a general interest in wildlife and casually watching birds. Then, I wanted to identify them, and before I knew it, I had become a birder. There were very few bird photographers then— this was back in the film days, before digital cameras. This hobby proved to be much harder than I had anticipated, until I got a boost from working with Mass Audubon.
I first met staff from Mass Audubon in 1989 when I supplied some AV equipment for Drumlin Farm, which was participating in the annual Boston Flower Show. We kept in touch, and as my connections deepened and more staff became aware of my work, I was asked if I’d teach a photography class at Drumlin Farm. I didn’t think people would be interested in participating, but to my surprise, more than 20 people signed up.
As I continued to improve my skills as a bird and wildlife photographer, I picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. With patience and timing, you can learn where you should set up to catch some amazing action shots. For example, when capturing shorebird pictures, I look to the tides. The incoming tide fills tidal pools and streams, attracting birds with a tasty snack. Settle in for high tide, and you can catch a shorebird resting before prowling the shoreline for food. Watch the tide go out and the birds move back along the shoreline, picking out their next meal in the receding waves.
Mass Audubon staff members have helped me become more knowledgeable about the natural world, and in turn, I felt the need to do my part in helping to protect wildlife and wild places. My involvement with Mass Audubon has expanded over the years, largely because I believe in what the organization stands for and the work it does to help protect wildlife. Over many years and hours of volunteering, teaching, and helping Mass Audubon with various projects, I get the satisfaction of being part of an organization that I am proud to support.
As a 15-year-old climate activist, people often ask me at what age I first got involved and started working with Mass Audubon. While I officially started as a youth leader when I was 11, I have been involved in this work for my whole life.
For my generation, there was never really a time for us when climate change wasn’t a reality or when we didn’t have something at stake in this fight. Even when I was little, I understood that my very future hangs in the balance. So, I started learning about the science of climate change, the role of youth voices, and the intersectionality of these many issues. And once I understood that joining the fight against the climate crisis doesn’t just mean combating climate change, it also means fighting for social justice, I knew that I had a responsibility to add my voice to this fight.
But at that time, it felt like no one was giving young people the tools needed to actually do something about everything that we were learning and experiencing. Instead of believing that we were simply too small to make a difference, my peers began leading the way. I was 8 years old when Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and 20 other young leaders sued the U.S. government for not addressing the climate crisis head-on. I was 10 when I first heard Greta Thunberg’s name and saw global climate strikes starting up all over the world. It was the first time I felt like I might have a voice in this.
Mass Audubon’s Youth Climate Leaders program has provided me and my peers with the tools to help lead the next phase of this fight. Our mission is to help other young leaders recognize that we each have a powerful voice that we can use to spark change. This program has really shown me that no one is too small to make an impact. My fellow Statewide Youth Climate Leaders and I put together a guide on how to form and manage a youth-led climate group. Visit massaudubon.org/yclp to download the Youth Climate Leaders Toolkit and learn how you can get involved.
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!