Over a long weekend in July, more than 600 college students, conservation leaders, chapter members, scientists, and birders from throughout the hemisphere gathered in Milwaukee for Audubon’s biennial convention. Designed to bring together the organization’s robust network of volunteers and staff, the 2019 Audubon Convention, themed "Audubon for Everyone," was a four-day event designed to foster stronger collaborations and help people build their skills to help protect birds and the places they need.
From deep-dive sessions on working with nontraditional partners to achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion to panels on becoming a plants for birds pro, this year’s program featured a wide range of opportunities for first-time convention-goers as well as Audubon convention veterans. But it wasn’t all work: Milwaukee, which sits on the western shore of Lake Michigan, also offered a wide range of outdoor opportunities to attendees, such as birding and kayaking on the Milwaukee River, visits to the International Crane Foundation, and tours around Schlitz Audubon Center for hands-on habitat restoration. Oh, and a few brewery visits, of course.
David Yarnold, Winona LaDuke, and Hahrie Hahn delivered keynote speeches and participated in Q&A sessions during the weekend. Yarnold kicked off the convention expanding on the concept “Audubon For Everyone,” and stressed that being inclusive is a critical component of the success of any modern conservation movement. The next night, during her Q&A with Audubon's Southwest Regional Network Manager Desiree Loggins, Han, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, talked about her studies on civic and political participation as well as mobilizing members of a nonprofit organization like Audubon. And on the penultimate morning, LaDuke, a rural-development economist, delivered a rousing call for action while sharing stories of her environmental and activist work, her participation in rallies at Standing Rock, and her thoughts about the injustices against Native communities. She also stressed the need to acknowledge that we all share the same space and resources, and that should drive us to collaborate on protecting those places.
“Whether we have wings, fins, roots, or paws—we are all in this together,” LaDuke said. “One dish, one spoon, we all have the same dish. We are all related.”
Since the last time the network convened in 2017 in Park City, Utah, Audubon has accomplished a lot for people and birds: It created a formal campus chapter program, secured three clean energy wins in five states, planted 400,000 native plants, engaged 10,000 beach stewards, and worked to conserve Colorado River water, to name only some of the highlights.
The organization has also solidified its commitment to the next generation of conservation leaders. To make the convention more accessible to a number of attendees, this year Audubon awarded 122 scholarships to early career professionals, students, and volunteer leaders. In total, representatives from 108 chapters, including 13 campus chapters, were in attendance.
The convention culminated in a grill out on Sunday and a visit from a local rescue birds, including a Bald Eagle, from Schlitz Audubon Center. After some final field trips on Monday, participants went their separate ways, taking their teachings and enthusiasm to every corner of the hemisphere.
The next Audubon convention will be held July 15-19, 2021 in Tacoma, Washington. We hope to see everyone there!