While growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, Elizabeth Baldwin never thought she would want to move back permanently after college. After spending some time in the “real world,” though, she quickly realized that the Vineyard is truly a special place and that the beauty, the community and the simplicity of life here is hard to find elsewhere. Finding a year round job in her field of wildlife management was a struggle though, so, for her first several years after returning to the Island, she monitored and protected rare shorebirds in the summer and substitute taught and work in an afterschool program in the winter. Through these work experiences, Liz realized her ideal career path: one that combined science and education. This realization led to her first Vision Fellowship which she was awarded in 2009 to support her in her pursuit of a Masters Degree in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. For her thesis, she used trail cameras to look at behavior and population characteristics of the North American River Otter here on the Vineyard. This was part of a larger community-based project that examined the river otters’ role as sentinels for habitat and water quality.
In spring 2011, Liz’s mentor, Luanne Johnson (2015 Vision Fellow) founded BiodiversityWorks, an Island nonprofit that focuses on shorebird protection and various other wildlife projects here on the Vineyard as well as involving and engaging the public and local schools. Liz is currently assistant director of BiodiversityWorks and she and Luanne were awarded a 2015 Vision Fellowship to study Northern Long-eared Bat (NLEB) distribution, roosting and migration behavior on Martha’s Vineyard. This research will gather life history information for NLEB specific to Vineyard habitats that will help us protect our population of these rare bats and recover the species within the Northeast. Martha’s Vineyard and Long Island may have the only remaining breeding populations of NLEB in the Northeast due to widespread white-nose syndrome causing mass mortalities at winter hibernacula. Luanne and Liz are collaborating with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the USGS Cooperative Research Unit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Virginia Tech, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Mass. Fish & Wildlife, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, local conservation non-profits, and private landowners.