Ithaca Man Singled Out for Environmental Leadership

Honoree Receives Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship

New York, NY —An Ithaca man is the recipient of a new national fellowship designed to advance the work of individuals with outstanding potential to help shape a brighter environmental future.

Michael Burger is one of only 40 people selected from competitors nationwide for the TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Program, part of a new conservation initiative of the National Audubon Society with support from Toyota. Fellows receive a small stipend, specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work with gifted conservation professionals, as well as assistance with outreach and evaluation. Each will also get funding for a community-focused project that can engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.

Burger will focus his efforts on developing Audubon’s eastern states conservation alliance, a new network of national office, field operations, and field-level staff stretching from Maine to Florida. The group wants to increase collaboration with one another, as well as with local groups, to achieve more effective, more innovative and more measurable conservation results. Burger hopes his project will result in more people involved in conservation efforts, having a bigger positive impact overall on threatened species and habitats.

The Director of conservation and science for Audubon New York has been involved in conservation efforts for more than 10 years. He served as a forest ecologist and as the director of bird conservation for Audubon New York, and has helped individuals, communities and organizations to protect Important Bird Areas in the state—through methods as varied as land acquisitions, private and public land stewardship, and even zoning law changes. Burger’s extensive work with Audubon has proven he has insights into ways to improve the group’s effectiveness, and can lead the conservation alliance in becoming more strategic and collaborative.

“Michael is the kind of person who can make a real difference in the health of our environment and the quality of our future,” said Audubon President John Flicker. “Each of our TogetherGreen Fellows demonstrates exceptional environmental understanding and commitment, combined with tremendous potential to inspire and lead others. Together, they represent the talented and diverse leadership the environmental community will need to tackle the huge challenges and opportunities confronting us now and in the years to come.”

“Audubon has a rich and successful history of conservation in this country,” said Burger. “I’m honored to have been selected for this fellowship and given the opportunity to contribute to our future successes by nurturing even more effective collaboration among my talented and dedicated colleagues.”

Burger has been affiliated with Audubon New York since 2000. Half of the TogetherGreen fellows come from within Audubon’s far-reaching national network; half channel their environmental efforts through other organizations.

Burger received a Masters and a Ph.D. in natural resources and environment from the University of Michigan in 1998. He graduated cum laude from Wittenberg University. He has written or presented dozens of articles, many of which focus on the significance of Important Bird Areas as conservation tools.

Burger received the National Audubon Society ACE Award for Individual Achievement in 2002.

“Toyota believes in the power of grassroots efforts to develop the environmental leaders of tomorrow,” said Patricia Salas Pineda, Group Vice President, Toyota Motor North America. “These 40 TogetherGreen Fellows will receive invaluable training for the future while immediately making a difference today with on-the-ground community projects.”

A complete list of TogetherGreen fellows can be found online at


Audubon and Toyota launched the five-year TogetherGreen initiative in spring, 2008 to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer and individual action opportunities that significantly benefit the environment. As of October, volunteer days have begun in 40, tallying in excess of 11,000 volunteer hours. Funding totaling $1.4 million was recently awarded to innovative conservation projects nationwide, while helps users take individual conservation action and share and celebrate success stories. The TogetherGreen initiative and grants programs are funded by a $20 million Toyota gift to Audubon, the largest in the conservation group’s long history.

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, with another under construction in Mississippi. 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. Through its corporate initiatives, manufacturing operations and philanthropy, Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. In 2007, Toyota contributed more than $56 million to philanthropic programs in the U.S. For more information on Toyota's commitment to improving communities nationwide, visit