Two years ago, Audubon launched its college campus chapter program with a dual mission: to develop and serve the next generation of leaders in bird conservation and science, and to also help them build their resumés and professional relationships. For Tara Hohman, a wildlife lover from Mansfield, Texas, the program did just that.
Birds weren’t always Hohman's passion. As a child, while playing outside, climbing trees, and getting dirty, she had a different dream. “I was going to work with hippos,” she says describing her childhood love for animals and career aspirations. Years later, she went to college planning to study zoology, but soon her passion for wildlife narrowed to focus on conservation, and then, after a pivotal summer, specifically on birds. “It was my first job sophomore year—Black Rails on the Texas coast,” Hohman says. “I didn’t know anything about them. And then it was bird job after bird job. One day, I thought to myself: 'This is it. Birds.'”
After graduating from university, she decided to get her master's degree, return to coastal work like what she did while studying Black Rails, and study wetland birds. “Apparently, I missed mosquitos,” she says.
As soon as Hohman arrived at University of Wisconsin Green-Bay for graduate school, she joined the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society. Being new to the state, she wanted to find a community to learn from that shared her avian interests. Shortly after, an opportunity “fell out of the sky,” as Hohman puts it. “I was approached by one of my graduate committee members, who had heard about the program at a Wisconsin Audubon council meeting, and asked if I wanted to start an Audubon campus chapter," she says. "I was like, yeah, that’s not even a question.” With that, one of the first Audubon campus chapters was born. The program grew quickly, developing a loyal suite of bird-happy college students.
Working for Audubon had long been Hohman's dream, spurred by her passion for birds, wetland ecosystem conservation, and involvement with the Audubon campus chapter program. When Stephanie Beilke, conservation science manager of Audubon Great Lakes, who did her graduate work in the same lab at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, told her about the open position at Audubon Center at Riverlands, Hohman jumped on it. Even though she was and still is in graduate school and working extensively on her thesis, she knew she couldn’t pass up this opportunity. “This is what I had been wanting to pop up," Hohman says. "I was applying to it whether it worked out or not.”
And work out it did. Hohman has been working as the Conservation Science Associate at Audubon Riverlands for four months, planning and implementing conservation plans throughout the entire Upper Mississippi River region. “It’s everything I had been aiming for and it all just fell into place," Hohman says. "I can’t describe how it really feels, it’s just amazing.”