Losing a Nature Hero: Liz Duff

On May 15, we lost a member of our family, someone whose work embodied the integration of education, science, conservation, and community-based advocacy.

Liz Duff worked for Mass Audubon for more than 20 years and contributed greatly to our education and engagement efforts on the North Shore, working with partners throughout New England. 

Liz Duff

She leaves our community with a strong and lasting legacy of meaningful environmental education and activism that has transformed the land and people that she so dearly stewarded and loved. Her contribution to students and teachers across the region and her collaboration with colleagues — across Mass Audubon and beyond — will influence how we connect youth to their local ecosystems for years to come.

Whether in the field with classroom teachers, helping connect students with authentic environmental research, or showcasing youth research at the annual Coastal Science Conference that she hosted with Plum Island Long Term Ecological Research, her commitment to her students of all ages was profound. It is incredible to imagine how many students and educators she influenced over the decades.

Liz’s programs, the conference, and community events all demonstrated what an agent of change she was in this region. The number of schools, individuals, government agencies, and community-based organizations that Liz worked with are too many to mention, but each and every one of them was part of the strong network of webs that Liz helped to weave over the years.

Most of all, Liz was a conservationist who cared deeply about her work and the health of the planet. She will be deeply missed here at Mass Audubon and in the greater conservation community.

At Mass Audubon, we are pleased to announce a new award in Liz’s honor. The Liz Duff Excellence in Environmental Education Award will be presented annually to recognize a professional who has developed and implemented field-based environmental education program that combines scientific investigation and civic engagement with the goal of having a positive impact of one’s community.

While we all wish Liz was still in the field, in her waders with a group of enthusiastic and engaged students, we hope that this award will allow her life’s work to continue to inspire others who also aim to connect people to nature and protect our planet.  

15 thoughts on “Losing a Nature Hero: Liz Duff

  1. Dan Earle

    Liz was a valued member of our GOMI efforts for many years. She was a joy to work with and will be missed by all. Hope someone has a copy of her Polar Bears musical creation. It was always a highlight of our yearly conferences. Will miss you Liz.

  2. Alexander Thompson

    This is something I was telling Liz daily, and now I need you at Mass Audubon to read it also:
    The limitations you see in your ability to do field work aren’t as dire as you imagine.
    There is no reason to send teams of people into the field where they might have issued with close contact, and be uncomfortable. They may all work individually in the outdoors alone without danger.
    There may be no further need to hunt pepperweed on the ground or on the water. Drone technology combined with the science of light wavelengths can be used to pinpoint the plant by detecting it’s specific light spectral reflection expressed in NM (Nanometers). The effect would be a filter, which would show suspected pepperweed patches in a false color image as clearly as if someone had gone into the map with a highlighter. A single worker with the drone goes area by area and creates, essentially, a real-time map. This is sent directly to the field workers and directs them accurately to the plant, and saves fuel, wasted time and prevents the percieved danger of personal contact.
    I am, in the words of the Reverend George Carlin, “Minimally exceptional”. But although I have no degrees, I have listened and talked with Liz about these challenges for years. She was stubborn and very set in her methods and would not admit my ideas had merit, but I know they do, and hope that for the sake of the Marsh, you hear them.
    Thank you again.

  3. Gailynn Carroll

    LIz is a beautiful person that will be so greatly missed. Our universe is an less rich without her heart and dedication and untiring work for a better world.

  4. Jessica Somes

    Liz and I were childhood friends. We both agreed we don’t even remember ever meeting? We’ve just always knew each other like siblings. Though our paths strayed so far apart, we always managed to stay in touch. Infact, last month, April, we were supposed to go to North Haven together. We were going to try to take fruit tree branches from there on her family’s property and bring them back and splice them on our own fruit trees! We both really looked forward to catching up with one another! We had planned it many months ahead. But then this Pandemic happened. She called me and we were forced to cancel. I never knew it would be the last time we’d ever speak! In remembrance of her. One of my most memorable moments on Facebook with Liz, she was quick to ask me about a photo I had posted. She was quick to ask… “Jess what did you use to make your snow man pink???” As you could feel the burning passion of her Love for Mother Earth come through the cell phone waves! I answered her, Liz, it’s Beat juice! Then you could hear the faint relief of a comforted sigh! All was good! -Jessica (Williams) Somes. May 27th, 2020. I will forever miss my childhood friend, Liz Duff.

  5. Alexander Thompson

    Thank you for this. I have admired her work and her focus for our entire time together. I connot express properly, this close to her death, how I feel. But I am glad to see her fondly remembered.

  6. Bob Allia

    I am devastated by Liz’s death. I am an educator that worked with Liz for 14 years as part of the salt marsh studies. She was a mentor who inspired me to do more in our local community and to educate and encourage young people in becoming stewards for the environment. She was someone I looked up to as a leader in environmental education. She will be sorely missed.

  7. Anthony Wilbur

    Seniors at Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School (widely known as Essex Tech) are required to create a portfolio to highlight important projects throughout their high school careers. My seniors – in the Environmental Technology Program – presented their portfolios today. Each senior (the whole class) highlighted the Mass Audubon Salt Marsh Project in their portfolios!! Thank you Liz! You will be missed. We will continue to study the salt marsh.

  8. Bailey Fogel


    I was a GOMI student of Liz’s and spent some time with her in the field. Her presence at many of the meetings I attended with her was always so peaceful and whole heartly focused on bettering our interactions with the natural environment. I am so struck by her passing, as she had a big impact on growing my passion for environmental education and the Great Salt Marsh.

    Last year for my senior AP Art project I included Liz along with 11 other local environmental educators of all mediums in my project which was focused on the concept of “solistagia”, which is the feeling when your home changes due to the changing climate. Liz was all for being apart of this project when I reached out and she offered a whole afternoon to me. We met in Essex, where she grew up, and I drove with her around the town as she pointed out different places she’s watched throughout her life change because of the rising seas. I took beautiful photographs of Liz as she looked over the Great Salt Marsh. Her essence of true value for the land became clear to me that day and I consider myself so lucky to have spent that afternoon with her.

    I am in South America right now, carrying out my work with environmental education, but when I arrive back home to Newburyport in early July I will be able to find the photos on my computer which I left there and look forward to sharing them.

    Best regards,

    Bailey Fogel

  9. Manchester Historical Museum c/o Beth Welin

    Thank you for honoring her and her passionate work. It was a privilege to work with her in the past.

  10. Bernadette

    Liz Duff was a brilliant , engaging individual. May God grant us more of her energies through others still here on earth. Keep Heaven educated, Liz!

  11. Martha

    I am very sorry for your loss. I recently moved to a waterfront pond area and have been so happy to correspond via Facebook with Mass Audubon about my sightings. What a great organization with obviously wonderful people.

  12. Dennis DiTullio

    Thank you from afar Liz. Your spirit your legacy hopefully will continue by those you touched.

  13. Sylvia Guthrie

    I was heartbroken to learn of Liz’s tragic death. Her commitment and passion for her work never wavered, and her efforts on behalf of the North Shore’s environment and the students she taught will leave a lasting legacy. Thank you for creating this new award in her honor…it is truly fitting.


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