Long Island beaches are a summer destination for humans and birds alike.
On some of these beaches, you might be greeted by a group of volunteers and shorebird advocates asking you to sign a pledge to protect nesting shorebirds. If you stop to chat, you may get the pleasure of speaking with one of Audubon New York’s two “Be a Good Egg” Outreach Interns: Leila Curtis and Kaydence He.
“We go to different beaches, talk to at least 100 people in a given day, and try to get as many signatures on our pledges as possible,” says Leila. The interns are part of Audubon New York’s Be a Good Egg outreach program, in which staff and volunteers table at local beaches and encourage the public to “share the shore” with shorebirds by giving them at least 100 feet of space to nest and rest. These paid internships are a new addition to the team.
“I was really excited to be able to include these two internships with our Coastal Outreach program this year because it opened up our conservation work to younger individuals,” says Kathryn D’Amico, center director for the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center, where the Be a Good Egg program is based. “Typically, our seasonal staff are college age students or recent grads, but these positions were created to reach the teen student that shows interest in the environment and conservation.”
Both Leila and Kaydence found their conservation beginnings in high school. “I really enjoyed participating in community outreach and hands-on activities that helped the environment,” says Kaydence of her time in her high school’s environmental club. Now, as a rising sophomore at Cornell University, she studies environmental biology and ecology as she pursues a degree in environment and sustainability.
So, what brought them into this field? “I’ve always loved animals since elementary school,” says Leila, “I made it my goal to work to protect all kinds of animals so I’d get to see them in person.” In high school, they brought this fascination to their Science Olympiads team, where they did the ornithology event. This has come in handy during their time as an intern, where they sometimes lead bird walks on the beach, identifying birds like American Oystercatchers and Black Skimmers—species they had never seen in-person.
Seeing new birds is just one of many aspects of the internship that Leila and Kaydence have enjoyed. “My favorite part is engaging and educating the public and seeing how many supporters we have for our cause through the hundreds of pledges we obtain at every outreach event,” says Kaydence. “My time as an intern has shown me how important community outreach really is.”
For Leila, they feel their time as a Be a Good Egg intern will help them in the professional world. “The internship work has helped me get a better sense of what proper field work might resemble,” they say.
After the summer, Kaydence will be returning to Cornell University for her sophomore year, and Leila will be starting their first year at Northeastern University studying ecology and evolutionary biology. Both feel that the lessons they’ve learned and skills they’ve gained throughout their internships will be helpful as they move further into the professional world.
To those interested in the field of conservation but not sure where to start, Leila, who found out about this internship opportunity while volunteering at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center, advises: “If you have a passion, pursue it! Go for what you want to do, whether it’s preserving the lake behind your house or it’s conservation efforts for animals halfway across the world. Anything is possible, and there’s always ways to get involved.”