This spring, more than 50 Audubon members from across the Great Lakes region came together online for the 2022 Audubon Great Lakes Chapter Gathering and Awards. The theme of the event was the Great Lakes Piping Plover, whose recovery success story highlights the importance of Audubon chapters and volunteers lending their voice for birds and climate policy. After plunging to fewer than 20 pairs, the Great Lakes Piping Plover was able to make an astounding comeback across the Great Lakes region thanks to recovery efforts carried out by Audubon members and affiliates of the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team.
The Great Lakes region is home to over 55 National Audubon chapters. Frequently led by volunteers, Audubon chapters cultivate a culture of conservation within the local communities they serve by advocating for the protection of birds, hosting educational outreach events and organizing birding walks, and engaging in community science and stewardship to protect local bird areas. They often work hand and hand with Audubon Great Lakes to achieve their missions.
The Friday, June 10 event included a lineup of speakers from Audubon and chapter members from across the region who shared how conservation and advocacy are helping birds across the Great Lakes.
Alan Dolan Conservation Advocacy Award Recognized Great Lakes Chapter Leader
A highlight of this event was the inaugural announcement of the Alan Dolan Conservation Advocacy Award, which recognizes one outstanding chapter volunteer for their community service, advocacy for environmental issues, and dedication to the Great Lakes network.
The bi-annual award is named in honor of the late Alan Dolan, who severed as the Chapter president of Canton Audubon Society for 30 years and was the regional director for Mississippi Flyway North for National Audubon Society’s board of directors for eight years. The Ohio network of chapters described Alan as warm and inviting which made it easier for him to connect people to conservation. Alan was dedicated to expanding Audubon’s flock. He valued community, environmental advocacy, and sustainability -- often encouraging others to choose more sustainable purchases and be mindful of recycling. Canton Audubon Society created a tribute that can be viewed here. A sincere thank you to Lee Dolan, Alan’s widow, and Linda Chen, President of Canton Audubon Society for their guidance and generosity to best reflect and honor Alan’s legacy.
In its first year, an overwhelming number of nominations for the award were submitted, giving testament to the great number of committed leaders across Audubon’s Great Lakes chapters that are mobilizing around environmental concerns, stewardship, community science, and much more!
We are thrilled to share that the debuting awardee is Jennifer Kuroda, President of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society and Audubon Council of Illinois. Jennifer, a resident of Rockford, Illinois, is recognized for her volunteer conservation work including advocacy to save Illinois’ Bell Bowl Prairie, the last remnant prairie in the state, and her work piloting Bird City Illinois, an initiative of Audubon Council of Illinois that engages municipalities in World Migratory Bird Day events and passes Proclamations and Resolutions that commit city government to bird-friendly actions. Kuroda also set up a nest cam for Peregrine Falcons in downtown Rockford, and commissioned murals of climate threatened bird species to raise public awareness shrinking natural habitat impacts birds while at the same time beautifying city streets and leading public tours. Bill Heck, former Regional Director of National Audubon Society who directly succeed Alan in his former role, presented the award.
During the Chapter Gathering, Kuroda shared her most recent project, an album titled ‘Bird Songs, Volume I - Sounds of the Mississippi Flyway’ by Micky Torpedo. On the album, Kuroda and Torpedo feature Illinois’ climate-threatened bird species highlighted in Audubon’s Survival by Degrees report, including American bittern, Bobolink, and Piping Plover.
Speakers Shared How Advocacy is Helping Great Lakes Birds
The chapter gathering’s threw line was the importance of advocacy. The gathering began with an inspiration message from Audubon’s Chief Conservation Officer, Marshall Johnson, who shared the significance of the Great Lakes region in achieving Audubon’s mission to protect birds for future generations. Johnson discussed the connection advocacy has to science and highlighted the importance of Audubon Great Lakes chapters and members reaching out to federal and state legislators through letter writing campaigns and other forms of advocacy.
Michelle Parker, Executive Director of Audubon Great Lakes and Hall Healy, Chair of the Advisory Board at Audubon Great Lakes shared the importance of building a board with members who have complementary passion and skillsets to support the work of Audubon chapters in carrying out their advocacy work, and more. Members also heard from Daniel Suarez, Conservation Manager for Audubon Great Lakes, who discussed Audubon’s work to evaluate and grow its stewardship program.
Event attendees also heard from Great Lakes legislators, who shared video messages thanking Audubon members. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN-02) shared a message of support for Audubon’s volunteers and chapter members who are working to protect birds across the Great Lakes region.
Members also heard from U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), who shared his gratitude for Audubon’s commitment to making the region a place where birds, wildlife and people can thrive.
During the event, attendees also heard from fellow chapter members, who shared how their advocacy efforts are helping birds. Members have participated in bird walks with legislators, given public testimony on environmental policies, helped elevate the important conservation work that indigenous communities and partners are leading across the region, , engaged with municipalities on bird-friendly actions, and launched environmental campaigns for causes like renewable energy. Thank you to Sycamore Audubon Society, Oakland Audubon Society, Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon, Sinnissippi Audubon Society, and Tri-Moraine Audubon Society for presenting.
Chapter Members Celebrated with Bird Walks across the Great Lakes
To expand on the celebration, on Saturday, June 11 nine chapters organized their own bird walks throughout the region. The bird walks where held by Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Lake County Audubon Society. Chequamegon Audubon Society, Canton Audubon Society, Greater Akron Audubon Society, Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society, Robert Cooper Audubon Society, and Detroit Audubon Society. During one bird walk, Detroit Audubon Society members visited the Holliday Nature Preserve where they spotted Wood Pewee, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Northern Flicker, a Tufted Titmouse, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, and — a highlight of the trip — a Great Egret nest.
A very special thank you to all of the Audubon volunteers, advocates, stewards, community scientists, and speakers who attended the 2022 Audubon Great Lakes Chapter Gathering and Awards.
Are you part of an Audubon chapter in the Great Lakes region? We would love to hear about your local Audubon work! Let us know what you’re up to for an opportunity to be featured by Audubon Great Lakes!
- Jeanese Shanks, Engagement Intern, Audubon Great Lakes