UW-Green Bay students take flight with nation’s first Audubon college campus chapter
Erin Giese ’12 (Masters of Environmental Science & Policy), senior research specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, considers herself incredibly passionate about birds and protecting them. In fact, just recently, she and her team rescued yet another Snowy Owl from the dangers of the Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, and relocated it to a safer location for its winter stay in Wisconsin.
While she had sensed that conservation and environmental protection were areas that she was meant to be in, finding a focus took a bit longer for Giese. A songbird banding position in Alabama post-graduation put her in a position to truly discover her love for birds.
Giese remembers specifically the bird that caused that first real spark: A Brown Thrasher. It was the first bird that she was able to extract from a mist net by herself during the bird banding operations, and from that point on she knew that birds were her calling. Giese decided to go on to graduate school at UW-Green Bay to further pursue this interest of hers.
Aside from Project SOAR, an effort dedicated to relocating Snowy Owls from airports, Giese is now serving as the advisor to UW-Green Bay’s Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter, which has gained national recognition for being the very first Audubon college campus chapter organized in the country. Giese and graduate student Tara Hohman (Environmental Science & Policy), president of the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter, discuss this exciting new development while providing an overview of the work that Audubon partakes in:
All About Audubon
The purpose of the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter is to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.
“We need to make sure that the next generation of young people are engaged to become leaders in bird protection and conservation in the coming years,” says Giese.
Students who participate in this organization are able to take advantage of numerous opportunities to learn more about birds and bird conservation at a local level. Students also learn to build practical experience, are introduced to jobs associated with birds, and connect with local bird conservation projects and professionals. The student organization welcomes those with any level of previous bird knowledge to join.
Providing volunteer opportunities are a strong component of the organization. The members organized an event at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in which they helped clean and rake the outdoor raptor exhibits, joined by fellow UW-Green Bay student organization Round River Alliance. Members have also volunteered at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Ashwaubenon to assist in cleaning bird feeders. Field trips this semester have included visiting the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and Ken Euers Natural Area. Members also attended two speaker events, co-hosted by the Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Audubon Chapter and Bay Area Bird Club.
“We are currently involved with some small scale projects that we hope will impact the university. One is window collision surveys around campus where we are trying to determine which buildings are the biggest risk to migrating birds. Once we have some data we hope to make some beneficial changes, like putting up deterrents to help mitigate those collisions,” says Hohman. “We are also involved with the Peregrine Falcons which have been nesting on the Cofrin Library for the past couple of years!”
The Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter plans on continuing its momentum into spring semester, with more speaker events, field trips throughout the state and possibly in Minnesota, and a Richter Museum of Natural History specimen prep workshop, among other plans.
“There are many young people who do not even know who or what Audubon is, and that needs to change,” Giese says, “This college campus program is a great way to change that and to engage and foster the next generation of bird conservationists.”
In order to bridge the gap between young bird conservationists and the long-term existing generation of bird conservation leaders, the National Audubon Society has launched an Audubon Campus Chapter Program. This program encourages the creation of Audubon bird clubs on college campuses across the country.
When Giese heard this announcement at the Wisconsin Audubon Council (WAC) meeting this past summer, she was instantly interested.
“As soon as I heard that, I raised my hand and asked if I could start a student chapter here at UW-Green Bay,” Giese says. “Immediately when I went back to work, I spoke with Tara about the possibility of starting a college campus Audubon chapter, and without hesitation, she said she was excited and interested in getting one started here at UW-Green Bay.”
NEW Audubon, for which Giese serves as president, serves an umbrella chapter for the student chapter. The student chapter wholeheartedly received approval and acceptance from the NEW Audubon Board of Directors. In the partnership between the two organizations, the president of the student chapter will always have a seat on the NEW Audubon Board of Directors to maintain a strong connection and encourage collaboration.
“The Green Bay Audubon chapter here at UW-Green Bay will provide students with important opportunities that will help them build their resumes and ultimately move them one step closer towards their dream careers,” Giese says.
To those at the chapter, it was a big surprise to gain the distinction of being the first campus chapter in the country to be recognized by the National Audubon Society.
“I am very excited to be able to connect UW-Green Bay with National Audubon and to get our university on the map nationally with Audubon,” Giese says. She also notes that Hohman and club Vice President, Emily Weber, were instrumental in getting the organization quickly registered with the University.
Hohman recalls that they didn’t know they were the first campus chapter until she and the club Vice President attended a Great Lakes gathering, which includes Audubon societies across the Great Lakes region. There, the National Audubon Society and Audubon Great Lakes informed them that they were the first to register a campus chapter and made it into quite an honor.
“Ultimately, it means that we were the first to send in and be approved and recognized by the National Audubon Society as a campus chapter,” says Hohman.
As Giese points out, birds are fascinating creatures.
“They are diverse with an estimated 10,000-18,000 species in the world and are truly beautiful, no matter if it’s a town bird or one found deep in the Amazon. They are found on every continent, even in the harshest of conditions in places like Antarctica, north of the Arctic Circle, places with little sunlight, deserts, and the middle of the ocean. They are resilient, intelligent, and adaptable. All species have their own life histories and ecologies and live out their own secret little lives that we only get a glimpse of,” Giese says.
And they deserve protection. That’s where the UW-Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter steps in.
Story by UW-Green Bay Marketing and University Communication intern Alicia LeBoeuf ’19