Fellow Story

Elizabeth Farnsworth, who conducted research projects in plant ecology worldwide, dies

Dr. ELIZABETH JEAN FARNSWORTH, 54, died unexpectedly on October 27th 2017 at home in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was born in Boston, MA on December 8th, 1962. She was educated at Brown University (B.A. with honors 1984), The University of Vermont (M.S. Botany 1991), and Harvard University (PhD. Ecology 1997). She conducted scientific research on many ecosystems throughout the world, focusing on restoration, conservation, and climate change. She was awarded a Bullard Research Fellowship by Harvard University in 2005 and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1999. She was a scientific consultant to the National Park Service, The Trustees of Reservations, U. S. Forest Service, Massachusetts and Connecticut Natural Heritage Programs, United Nations, and the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. 

Elizabeth conducted research projects in plant ecology all over the world in a vigorous and distinguished career spanning more than three decades. She dedicated her prolific scientific and artistic expertise to environmental education in a wide variety of settings, from university teaching to development of ecology education projects for children.  She was a Senior Research Ecologist with the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS), and a biologist, educator, and scientific illustrator. She was also Editor-in-Chief of the botanical journal, Rhodora. She was principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop an on-line award-winning guide to the regional flora for teaching botany (Go Botany). She previously coordinated NEWFS planning for the conservation and management of over 100 species of rare plants. She illustrated the Flora of New England (Yale University Press) and the Nature of New Hampshire with the NH Natural Heritage Bureau, and illustrated and co-wrote the award-winning Field Guide to the Ants of New England (Yale University Press). She was co-author of the Connecticut River Boating Guide: Source to Sea and the Peterson Field Guide to the Ferns.

She was also a member of the graduate faculties of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Rhode Island, and taught at Smith College and Hampshire College. She served as Ecologist with the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy where she awarded another Switzer Fellow, Laura Meyerson, her first research grant thus launching her career.

The American scientific community will miss Elizabeth’s energetic presence and distinguished accomplishments in the field of ecology. Her wide and devoted circle of friends in science and the arts has lost a gifted musician and visual artist, and a witty, fervent, and loyal companion. A memorial celebration of Elizabeth’s life is being planned for the near future. For further information on developments thus, check the Hitchcock Center website http://www.hitchcockcenter.org/ .

The family suggests that donations in memory of Elizabeth be sent to New England Wild Flower Society http://newenglandwild.org, Hitchcock Center for the Environment http://www.hitchcockcenter.org/, Amandla Chorus http://amandlachorus.org, or any other conservation organization, group, or charity of the donor's choice

Additional Resources

Earth Matters: In memoriam, Elizabeth Farnsworth, writer, illustrator, scientist, naturalist