National Audubon Society Announces Dr. Elizabeth Gray as CEO

Dr. Gray, a scientist and ornithologist will be the first woman to hold the CEO title in the organization’s 116 year history.

NEW YORK - The National Audubon Society (“Audubon”) today announced that Dr. Elizabeth Gray, currently serving as acting CEO, will become the organization’s 11th leader and the next CEO. A scientist, ornithologist and global conservation leader, Dr. Gray will be the first woman to hold the CEO title in the organization’s 116 year history.

"Elizabeth is a trailblazer. She’s a trained ornithologist, a global climate change and conservation expert, a strong and proven fundraiser, and a seasoned organizational leader and teambuilder who has a long track record incorporating equity, diversity and inclusion in the work she leads,” said Susan Bell, Audubon Board Chair and CEO Search Committee Chair. “I’m so proud to have led the search to name such an outstanding and experienced leader and the first woman to be CEO in Audubon’s history. I’m looking forward to our partnership together with the board and the talented and passionate Audubon staff to address the most important conservation issues of our time."

“Becoming Audubon’s CEO feels like a homecoming for me. Birds launched my career into conservation, and they opened my eyes to the importance of tackling climate change.  As an early warning system for environmental threats, birds are the key to addressing the greatest conservation challenges of our time,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gray, CEO of the National Audubon Society. “Birds bring me so much joy and I see that in the team at Audubon as well. Birds are a uniting force, bringing together communities across the hemisphere. Over the past six months as acting CEO, I have been honored and inspired by the opportunity to work  with Audubon’s outstanding staff and volunteer network, and I am looking forward to partnering together to build a brighter future for birds and the planet. As I’ve been known to say, bird survival is human survival.”

Dr. Elizabeth Gray

Dr. Elizabeth Gray
Dr. Elizabeth Gray, CEO, National Audubon Society. Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

Dr. Gray joined Audubon in March of 2021 as President and Chief Conservation Officer and accepted the role of Acting CEO in May 2021.  

Trained as an ornithologist, Dr. Gray has spent more than three decades as a dedicated conservationist, including considerable time in the field nationally and abroad. A champion of science-based conservation, her work has focused on building strong partnerships with local communities, as well as state, national and international environmental partners to protect the planet.

Dr. Gray joined Audubon from The Nature Conservancy where she served in a number of leadership roles, most recently as Global Managing Director for Climate. She has a significant track record on climate change leadership at the national and global level including: serving as a global spokesperson for the Conservancy’s climate change work at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings; launching regional programs in climate adaptation and natural climate solutions across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean; and, publishing numerous scientific papers focused on her research in climate-impacted areas such as Latin America, East Africa, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

In the last six months, Elizabeth has elevated Audubon’s profile at significant climate events like NYC Climate Week and COP26 and has already raised several million dollars to advance Audubon’s mission. As Audubon embarks on its next strategic plan, it will  build upon Dr. Gray’s inclusive vision to focus the work in three interwoven pillars: Climate, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB), and Hemispheric Conservation. 

Since assuming the role of Acting CEO, Dr. Gray has worked in partnership with Jamaal Nelson, Audubon’s Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, who also joined Audubon in March 2021 to advance key equity, diversity and inclusion efforts at Audubon including, white allyship training, BIPOC community building support, transition guidelines for transgender staff and an increased paid time off policy.

Prior to her time at Audubon, Dr. Gray served as one of five members of The Nature Conservancy’s Global Gender Equity Council, advising the CEO, President, and COO/General Counsel on gender issues across the organization. She founded the first urban conservation program in Washington, D.C., and has worked to empower the next generation of conservation leaders through a young professional’s network and youth advocacy program. Dr. Gray earned her Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Washington and holds an A.B. with highest honors in psychology from Harvard University.

Dr. Gray will assume the role of permanent CEO immediately and she will be based in Washington, D.C.


The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

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