Audubon Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Interns Restore Bird Habitat on Chicago’s Southwest Side

Internship program kick starting careers in environmentalism and conservation

This summer, six young adults spent Chicago’s warmest days learning about conservation and restoration, and putting their newfound knowledge to work by restoring bird habitat on the city’s southwest side. They were participants of Audubon Great Lakes’ Habitat Restoration Internship Program, a seasonal program in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Chicago Park District.  

For 16 weeks each summer, interns are out on Forest Preserves of Cook County and Chicago Park District land, learning about and helping to manage and restore the coastal wetlands and grasslands that birds need. 

Interns worked to remove invasive vegetation that is out-competing native plants for space and nutrients and re-introduced native plants and seeds to create a more diverse ecosystem that closely resembles habitats before human interaction. Before they began this important work, they took courses to learn proper methods and techniques and receive certification to assist them in their future careers.  

The internship program strives to represent and reflect the diversity of the communities Audubon Great Lakes works in by recruiting local, diverse candidates. To help kick-start their careers, each year interns are provided with to opportunities for professional development, job shadowing, and stewardship. Interns interact and learn from Audubon’s staff to understand how their work contributes directly to Audubon’s mission, vision and work. 

Since launching in 2014, 80 percent of Restoration Interns have moved into jobs in environmental and conservation-related fields.  

This year, Habitat Restoration Interns helped restore Chicago’s natural areas for the benefit of birds and people.  

2022 Impact Numbers 

  • 113+ acresof natural areas enhanced or restored 
  • 1,200+ hours of ecological restoration 
  • 260+ hours of field-based trainings and certifications 
  • 500+ pounds of Invasive plants/plant material pulled 

Learn about the 2022 Habitat Restoration Interns and what inspired their restoration work

Jonah Dobrutsky 

As the 2022 Assistant Crew Chief, Jonah loves working outdoors and plans to pursue a career in the forestry conservation field or as an arborist. One highlight of Jonah’s internship was helping to release endangered baby Blanding’s Turtles into restored habitat, as part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s effort to protect this vulnerable species. Jonah is currently majoring in Environmental Biology at Harold Washington College. His favorite bird is the Cardinal.   

Aidan Gallagher  

Aidan became a Restoration Intern to learn more about Illinois’ native ecosystems and to contribute to the restoration of their health. This fall, Aidan will be a freshman at Stony Book University where he will major in environmental studies with a concentration in coastal ecology. In the future, he hopes to work as a wildlife ecologist. His favorite bird is the Osprey.   

Miguel Hernandez 

Miguel is proud to do his part to restore land so that future generations can have the opportunity to experience nature as he has, or in an even better condition. The internship has shown Miguel that he can work through the heat and overcome challenges. Miguel graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a Bachelor’s in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a concentration in Fish and Wildlife. He plans to pursue a career as an Agricultural Specialist in Chicago at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. His favorite bird is the Crested Caracara.   

Jenna John 

Jenna’s love of birds and their evolutionary biology, as well as her admiration for biologist, author and environmentalist Rachel Carson drew her to the internship program. During her internship, Jenna witnessed the resilience of plants, which are able to grow and thrive in adverse conditions with the right support and care. Jenna is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design, and a minor in Science, Technology, and Society. Jenna plans to stay involved in conservation work in the Chicago region, and reflect on her experience through writing and art. Her favorite bird is the Great Argus.  

Matt Puzzo   

As the 2022 Crew Chief, Matt brought his love of birding and nature, and his desire to make the world a better place to the internship. Matt has a Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Engineering and Technology. Matt is planning to pursue a green career in environmental engineering. His favorite bird is the Belted Kingfisher.   

Tarik Shahzad  

Tarik’s favorite part of the internship was seeing the plethora of plants and animals that call our natural areas home. At one of the program’s restoration sites, Indian Ridge Marsh, he has spotted many secretive marsh birds. Seeing these incredible species has helped him appreciate the critical restoration work that the Habitat Restoration Interns do. Tarik graduated from Middlebury College with a Bachelor's in Environmental Studies with a focus in Policy. This internship experience has inspired Tarik to pursue a full time position in the environmental field, either in policy or in restoration. His favorite bird is the Black-capped Chickadee.  

To learn more, visitAudubon Great Lakes Restoration Internship Program online or contact Servando Moreno, Stewardship Program Associate at 

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