Conservation Leader David O’Neill Named Mass Audubon's New President

Release Date:
April 7, 2020

LINCOLN, MA.—Mass Audubon has named David O’Neill the 11th President of the state’s largest nature conservation organization.

O’Neill has dedicated his professional career to conservation. For the last five years, he has served as the Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society (NAS). While there, his powerful vision, collaborative nature, and ability to raise critical funds elevated the entire organization.

“David is a committed, proven leader who can hit the ground running on day one, bringing a highly relational and visionary approach,” Mass Audubon Board Chair Beth Kressley Goldstein said. “I could not be more excited for the future of Mass Audubon and look forward to this next chapter in our long history of connecting people and nature.”

During his tenure at NAS, he led the development of its conservation strategies, helped to unify the state offices around a single vision, oversaw the organization’s policy, advocacy, and science agendas, and launched innovative programs to help fight the impacts of climate change.

Prior to his senior roles with National Audubon, O’Neill served as Vice President at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Director of Land Use Policy and Outreach for the Urban Land Institute.

O’Neill spent formative years exploring his family’s small farm and learning about coastal ecology on Chesapeake Bay. “That early environmental education program turned out to shape my future,” he recalled. “Nature and the outdoors will always be a place of wonder and solace—the beautiful sounds of migrating birds I hear today bring a special joy to my family and me.

“To lead a storied institution that provides so many with those life-altering, nature-based experiences is an exceptional honor,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill is particularly inspired by Mass Audubon’s commitment to thread climate change strategies through all its work; to embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion opportunities, including its reach to new audiences; and to widen its lens to improve the health and resilience of Massachusetts, New England, and beyond.

Mass Audubon was founded as the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1896 by two intrepid Boston women determined to stop the slaughter of birds for their feathers. New Audubon chapters rose up across the country to enlist in the campaign, and in 1905 NAS was founded.

The Massachusetts organization (now Mass Audubon) chose to remain independent, but shares a mission of promoting birds, other wildlife, and natural ecosystems.

Today, Mass Audubon remains a leader in supporting land conservation and a rich biodiversity of species that depends on open space; promoting nature-based education for all ages and abilities; and advocating for a healthy environment at the local, state, and federal levels.

O’Neill succeeds Gary Clayton, who, after more than 30 years with Mass Audubon (the last five as president), will retire in May.

In welcoming a new leader who shares both its enduring values and a vision for a more vibrant, diverse, and inspired conservation community, Mass Audubon and all nature lovers can feel confident about forging a stronger, more resilient environmental future for people and wildlife.

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Mass Audubon protects more than 38,000 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts' largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state's natural treasures for wildlife and for all people's vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women.

Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 135,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today's and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at www.massaudubon.org.