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Audubon Honors Conservation Pioneer Dr. Steve Kress for a 45-Year Legacy Saving Seabirds

After decades of groundbreaking seabird restoration, a conservation hero announces a well-earned retirement.

ROCKLAND, Maine (August 26, 2019) – On August 23, Audubon leaders, friends and family celebrated the trailblazing career of Dr. Steve Kress, who will be retiring at the end of September.

“Through dedication and perseverance, Steve is an amazing example of how one person can change the world. He not only accomplished the unthinkable—reintroducing Atlantic Puffins to several of Maine’s coastal islands—but he also pioneered the idea of seabird restoration around the globe,” said Dr. Karen Hyun, vice president for coasts at the National Audubon Society. “He’s both a world-class scientist and an extraordinary advocate for seabirds; Audubon’s seabird restoration work he established and led for 45 years will continue to grow and protect birds for decades to come.”

"Steve Kress has remarkable tenacity and vision—bringing puffins back to Maine islands, creating over 40 years of research data, revitalizing the Hog Island Audubon Camp, and transforming the concept of a Seabird Institute into reality,” said Juanita Roushdy, president of Friends of Hog Island. “Friends of Hog Island is honored to have partnered with Steve on Hog Island’s rebirth and looks forward to seeing the Audubon Seabird Institute thrive under the leadership of Don Lyons and Tiffany Huenefeldt. Steve has truly made his mark and leaves a legacy that changes not only the future of seabirds but also of humans. He changed mine."

Renowned seabird biologist Steve Kress leads an expedition to Eastern Egg Rock with a week-long workshop Thursday, June 13, 2019. Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

 “I am thankful that Audubon has given me the opportunity to test new ideas for seabird restoration and to work alongside hundreds of early career biologists at the very places where Audubon had its origin more than 100 years ago,” said Dr. Steve Kress, retiring executive director of the Seabird Restoration Program and vice president of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society. “These inspiring young biologists have made it possible to protect and restore most of Maine’s rare and endangered seabirds at a time when seabirds and their ocean homes need help more than ever before.” 

The work to support seabird restoration continues under the leadership of Dr. Donald Lyons, who has spent his career in work directly aligned with Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program. Dr. Lyons spent the last 20 years at Oregon State University working on seabird science and conservation. His background as an electrical engineer and seabird biologist helps him further research on tracking seabird foraging, dispersal, and migration using both banding and electronic tagging. Over the past year, he has worked closely with Dr. Kress in anticipation of taking on his new leadership role. Tiffany Huenefeldt will continue her role as managing director for the Seabird Restoration Program. In addition, an anonymous National Audubon Society board member has invested $1 million, which will enable Audubon to build on Dr. Kress’ conservation legacy through a new Seabird Institute that will accelerate Audubon’s marine science, conservation and policy work throughout the hemisphere. It will help support Audubon’s leadership role in addressing the precipitously declining populations of seabirds and forage fish they depend on for survival; Dr. Kress’s most recent research shows seabirds’ primary food source is disappearing as a result of climate change and overfishing.

Aerials of Todd Wildlife Sanctuary and Hog Island Audubon Camp in 2019. Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

Dr. Kress earned global recognition for his extraordinarily successful “social attraction” technique using bird decoys, sound recordings, and mirrors to attract and reintroduce Atlantic Puffins to the island of Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine. In addition to repopulating Eastern Egg Rock, Kress has helped grow the population of Atlantic Puffins to more than 1,000 nesting pairs on five coastal Maine islands. His work through the Seabird Restoration Program has restored nesting colonies for approximately 42,000 seabirds. In addition, he has taught and influenced hundreds of students, conservationists and scientists from more than a dozen countries through internships and inspired thousands of conservation leaders of all ages at the Hog Island Audubon Camp, where he served as instructor and director for the past 50 years.

In 2014, Audubon honored Dr. Kress with the peer-nominated Charles H. Callison Award for Professionals for his remarkable contributions to conservation through coalition-building, creative thinking, and perseverance. He is also a course instructor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York.

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About Audubon

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 www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Chandler Lennon, chandler.lennon@audubon.org, 212.979.3063

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