Audubon in Action

Conservation Trailblazers on Campus

Young leaders blaze a trail for fellow students to advocate for birds and the places they need through Audubon’s Campus Chapter Program.

Finding and supporting the next generation of conservation leaders is a priority at Audubon. To achieve that goal, Audubon has helped students establish campus chapters in North Carolina, Wisconsin, California, Florida, and Virginia. Launched just six months ago, the program is on track to have 50 campus chapters by this fall, with a goal of forming 150 chapters by 2020. 

Student leaders across the country like Tara Hohman, Mackenzie Dorr, and Kaitlyn O’Dea, inspired by the beauty and wonder of birds and made urgent by the all too real threats listed in Audubon’s Climate report, have laid the foundation for a legacy of on-campus environmental advocacy and the exploration of career paths in conservation.

Kaitlyn O’Dea, President, Channel Island Audubon
California State University Channel Island

California State University Channel Island has a graduation requirement that says students must work 16 service-learning hours with a community partner. Kaitlyn O’Dea, an Environmental Science and Resource Management major spent her service-learning hours working with the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, Ventura Audubon, where she volunteered on shorebird recovery and beach-monitoring programs.

O'Dea is passionate about finding solutions to local environmental injustices. For example, she is founding a youth advocacy program to engage middle and high school students in environmental justice and be inspired to pursue the field as a viable career option. And she and her fellow chapter members hope that the chapter will partner with local organizations to work on environmental justice issues and coastal conservation. 

O'Dea graduates this semester and has been hired by Ventura Audubon as the chapter’s field biologist. She’s excited to pass the proverbial baton to the group’s new members. “We [CI Audubon] have an amazing younger audience and I am excited to see what they will do in the future,” O'Dea says.

Tara Hohman, President, Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

Tara Hohman attributes her love of birds to her job as a field technician while an undergraduate at Texas State University, where she conducted callback surveys for Black Rails, assessed bird habitats, and assisted in bird banding.

Hohman is a candidate for a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay (UWGB) and is working in partnership with the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. “When I moved to Wisconsin for graduate school, I wanted to be connected with regional Audubon chapters and make connections," Hohman says. "My motivation for actually doing it was the positive experiences I’ve had with birds, the birding community.” 

Mackenzie Dorr, President, Gators Ready for Exceptional Birding Experiences (GREBE)
University of Florida, Gainesville

Mackenzie Dorr is dedicated to smashing the notion that birding is exclusively for older audiences. As a former ZOO Miami intern in high school, Dorr appreciated Florida’s diverse wildlife but didn’t have a particular affinity for birds. It was through watching her mentor work with birds at the zoo that warmed her up to feathered creatures over time.

Dorr is now president of the two-year-old The Gators Ready for Exceptional Birding Experiences (GREBE) group at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Among other things, GREBE helps implement a window collision-prevention program that aims to reduce bird casualties on campus. What started as a five- person birding club now boasts 60 members on campus and works closely with the local Audubon chapter, Alachua Audubon Society. “The best thing to do is to reach out to the head of the science department,” Dorr says. “Tell them about your desire to start a club, and ask them to be an advisor.” 

Leading the Next Generation of Audubon Leaders

Gustavo Figueroa, student outreach associate at Audubon, is dedicated to growing the campus chapter program. Figueroa is joined by Ray Sessley who, with support from the Fund II Foundation, is engaged in outreach and partnership efforts with HBCU’s and other minority-serving institutions. If you are interested in starting a campus chapter visit the sign up page or email Gustavo and Ray at CampusChapters@audubon.org.

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