Virginia Woman Recognized for Innovative Environmental Leadership

A Richmond woman who spends many of her Fall weekends at Snickers Gap in Clarke County observing the annual raptor migration has received the Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship.

Mary Elfner, a Richmond resident, is the recipient of a national conservation fellowship that will help connect local kids to nature through hands on projects. Over the next 18 months, with the support of the TogetherGreen Fellowship, Mary will work to connect school children throughout the state to the many important bird areas in Virginia through hands-on projects, school presentations and field trips.

Mary Elfner has been awarded an Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship - Photo courtesy National Audubon Society

Ms. Elfner is one of 40 individuals nationwide selected as a 2011 TogetherGreen Fellow. Supported by a conservation alliance between Audubon and Toyota, the TogetherGreen Fellowship offers specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow receives $10,000 towards a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.

For Elfner’s TogetherGreen Fellowship project, she will expand on her current work as Virginia’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) Coordinator to work with school children that live and study in communities in the state’s IBAs. Her engagement of schools will include field trips, bird identification study, and using technology for conservation. She’ll also design an online social networking site so that children can communicate in person and online about forested bird species such as Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warblers, Cerulean Warblers and other high priority species.

“Mary has the passion and the skills to inspire others, exactly the kind of person the environmental community needs to tackle the huge challenges and opportunities confronting us,” said Audubon President David Yarnold. “Our TogetherGreen Fellows represent a talented and diverse group; each a proven leader with a commitment to both the environment and his/her community.”

“It’s an honor to receive this TogetherGreen Fellowship,” said Elfner. “The Fellowship will help us turn knowledge into conservation action, and ultimately help high priority bird species and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Elfner earned her B.A. in Environmental Science and Chemistry from Warren Wilson College and her M.S. in Environmental Policy and Wildlife Biology from University of Georgia. She has been honored by The Garden Clubs of America for her contribution to conservation and was highlighted as “20 Who Made A Difference” in the Savannah Morning News. She is a member of the National Audubon Society, American Water Works Association, and the Warren Wilson College Alumni Board.

Fellowship recipients were chosen from a large pool of highly qualified individuals. All were required to have at least six years of experience in conservation, environmental education, policy, or related issues; a demonstrated passion for conservation and a proven track record of reaching previously underserved audiences. Applicants also need to express a desire to learn and grow. An advisory committee composed of conservation professionals and experts in environmental education, communications, outreach, and conservation planning made selections.

A complete list of the 2011 TogetherGreen Fellows can be found at .

Audubon and Toyota launched the five-year TogetherGreen initiative in 2008 to build the promise of a greener, healthier future through innovation, leadership and volunteerism. For more information, visit Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at .

Toyota (NYSE: TM) established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates 10 manufacturing plants, including one under construction.  Toyota directly employs nearly 30,000 people in the U.S. and its investment here is currently valued at more than $18 billion, including sales and manufacturing operations, research and development, financial services and design. Toyota is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. Since 1991, Toyota has contributed over half a billion dollars to philanthropic programs in the U.S. For more information on Toyota’s commitment to improving communities nationwide, visit .


  1. just the facts..PLEASE says:

    this Toyota/ Audubon partnership is also reponsible for closing access to much of the “public” beaches on Hatteras Island, NC causing extreme financial hardship to residents, businesses and sportsmen.

    I’ll never buy anotyher Toyota!

  2. Be that as it may, “facts…PLEASE,” Mary Elfner is to be commended for her own good work, and this grant will enable her to continue and extend that as she helps children learn more about birds and their importance to the environment (and vice versa). By the way, Ms. Elfner is also an accomplished musician and represented Clarke County quite well when she was a featured guest on the “Piano Puzzler” segment of NPR’s “Performance Today” radio show this week. Just thought y’all might like to know.