As New York State’s co-lead for the Healing our Waters Coalition, Audubon joined with Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment to recruit advocates for the 2023 Great Lakes Fly-In in Washington, DC.
The Fly-In is typically a gathering of partners from across the Great Lakes, all of whom advocate for the health and conservation of the ecosystem.
This year we were thrilled to bring in two new voices to speak with members of Congress – cross country teammates and schoolmates from SUNY ESF – Savannah Kuhr and Aubrianna DeLario-Brown.
Savannah, an Environmental Science major, and Aubrianna, a Wildlife Science major, had already gained invaluable experience before joining our coalition in DC.
The two spent their summer together at Sandy Island Beach State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario, where a small population of Piping Plovers were nesting in a sensitive dune habitat. As part of the Audubon in the Parks and FORCES Program, they engaged in monitoring, habitat management, and public education to protect this state-endangered species.
With this real-world conservation experience under their belts, Savannah and Aubrianna made for excellent spokespeople!
At each meeting, Savannah explained, “We started out by giving the staff a brief background on the conservation history of the Piping Plover population and the efforts we made throughout the season to aid in their safety and wellbeing. We also told them about releasing eight captive-reared chicks that we are hopeful will return to Sandy Island in upcoming nesting seasons.”
Aubrianna recalled that moment as well, given she had to explain “captive rearing” to the staffers. “This was kind of humorous to me because it was a reminder that not everyone is a wildlife scientist, so despite knowing the basics of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant program, Members of Congress and their staff needed us to provide specific details. It was definitely a learning moment for us to keep our language inclusive because we want them to fully understand why funding this program is so important.”
“I know our story resonated because regardless of political affiliation, they expressed amazement to hear about these successes, saying they typically only hear about budget numbers instead of the work being done on-the-ground,” Savannah added.
Looking ahead, we’re excited to share this experience with other passionate students who may want to explore the intersection of conservation and government relations in the future.
“After college, I'm interested in exploring a career as a biologist at a national wildlife refuge, where I can design and implement outdoor education and public outreach programs that focus on topics like wetlands and birds,” says Aubrianna.
Savannah, who is interested in environmental law, also wants “to dedicate my future career to leaving an impact in the world of environmental science.”
Audubon applauds our student representatives for their commitment to their work with Audubon in the Parks and FORCES, their studies at ESF, their cross-country team, and their willingness to try something new and out of their comfort zone in an effort to advance conservation in and around the Great Lakes!