Dear Friends & Travelers,
Mass Audubon, like every other business and organization, has been suddenly confronted with the enormous public health and economic challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may expect, our Natural History Travel program has been hard hit.
The financial loss has been unprecedented. In addition, the general instability in the travel industry, the future of the economy, the climate crisis, and the political upheavals around the world are of deep concern to all of us involved.
Therefore after much thought and discussion, Mass Audubon has decided to end our international travel program as of May 15. Sanctuary-run tours in the US will not be impacted by this change. I fully support and agree with the decision, and my last day at Mass Audubon will be May 15.
The Mass Audubon Natural History Travel program started in the early 1960's when Jim Baird, Chris Leahy, and Peter Alden created and led some of the very first international birding and nature tours. They pioneered many destinations, and those early days were wildly adventurous and deeply educational.
During the nearly 60 years of the program, Mass Audubon staff and travelers have shared unique travel and birding experiences in the natural world. I have personally traveled with many of you, and those memories are precious. Thanks to you all for your incredible support and good humor over these many years.
I am grateful for the joyous 20+ years I've been here. Managing the Nature History Travel program was a very rewarding job thanks to the interesting work, outstanding organization, incredible staff, and you—the intrepid, interesting travelers.
Thank you for all your participation and support for Mass Audubon. Go outside, look up, and listen to the birds! Take care and be safe.
—Karen O'Neill, Director of Natural History Travel
A message from Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton
As a fellow traveler and advocate for the Natural History Travel Program, it is profoundly disappointing to close the program after 60 years of travel adventures. This decision was made with substantive input from members of the Board of Directors, senior staff, and Travel Director Karen O'Neill. As painful as it is, we all concur that this is right thing for the organization at this time. Due to the program closure, Karen will be leaving Mass Audubon as of May 15.
I am proud that Mass Audubon was a pioneer in the international birding and nature tours business. Through our work, we introduced thousands of people to the wonders of nature across the globe. These tours helped travelers, including me, become more aware of the interconnectedness of our ecosystems and strengthened our commitment to protect our natural world. We also brought much needed conservation dollars to remote areas of the world, which helped bolster local economies and showed how ecotourism could be an alternative to natural resource consumption. We can all take great pride in that work.
Since 1997, Karen O’Neill has been at the helm of this important program. Her leadership and expertise successfully guided the program through many ups and downs. Her commitment to providing the very best educational experience for our travelers, collaboration with our staff tour leaders, and international tour guides and operators, along with her astute business acumen, created a program that earned a reputation for exceptional quality and one of which Mass Audubon can be very proud.
I am truly grateful for Karen’s leadership and will miss her positive attitude and unwavering dedication to our mission.
—Gary Clayton, President