Meet the Audubon Interns Who are Restoring Chicago’s Bird Habitat

Audubon Great Lakes’ Habitat Restoration Internship Program Celebrates a Successful Conservation Season

Each summer, a group of exceptional young adults works diligently to manage and restore the coastal wetlands and grasslands that birds need on public lands overseen by the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Chicago Park District.  

For more than a decade, Audubon Great Lakes has nurtured the future leaders of conservation through the Audubon Habitat Restoration Internship Program, a partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the Chicago Park District, and the Nature Conservancy that strives to represent and reflect the diversity of the communities Audubon Great Lakes works in by recruiting local, diverse candidates.  

This summer, Audubon Great Lakes’ Restoration Interns rolled up their sleeves to protect the places that  vulnerable marsh birds like the Common Gallinule need to thrive on Chicago’s southeast side. Among their work, they removed harmful invasive plants, like phragmites and buckthorn, by hand and through herbicide application to limit harmful invasive plant growth and to encourage native plants to sprout. Interns also  interacted with Audubon’s diverse staff, to better understand how different roles and departments each contribute to Audubon’ Great Lakes’ mission to protect birds across the region.  

This year, Restoration Interns led the way as the next generation of conservation champions, helping to conserve our local areas.  

2023 Impact Numbers  

  • 116+ acres of natural areas enhanced or restored

  • 1300+ hours of ecological restoration   

  • 500+ hours of field-based trainings and certifications  

  • 150+ pounds of Invasive plants/plant material pulled  

Let’s meet this summer’s cohort! 

Glenn Decety recently graduated from Bard College with a degree in biology. A camping and canoeing enthusiast, Glenn has previously volunteered for tree pruning and waste pickups. He is motivated by the importance of safeguarding ecosystems against the encroachment of new invasive threats. During his internship, an encounter with the Virginia Rail left an indelible mark on Glenn. His favorite bird rotates between the Ruddy Duck, Egyptian Vulture, and Snowy Owl.  

Kayla Lindsay Fisher has a Bachelors Degree in Science Nursing and was this year’s Restoration Internship Crew Chief. Her interest in conservation started when she found an Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar in her garden. This tiny creature taught her the importance of native plants. During her internship, Kayla gained an understanding of how much work goes into environmental conservation, which involves an assortment of many roles including ecologists, land managers, GIS technicians, and grant contributors. From removing invasive species to identifying native plants, Kayla's internship experience was as diverse as the ecosystems she cared for. Her favorite bird is the Eastern Bluebird.  

Stanislaw Gunkel recently graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with a  double major in German and International Studies with a focus in Global Environment and Health and a minor in Environment. Stanislaw started birding when he was eight year old. Since then he has wanted a career that benefits birds. His internship experience deepened his appreciation for the collective effort required to maintain healthy ecosystems, and reshaped his perspective on environmental conservation. For Stanislaw, it’s impossible to pick a favorite bird. He narrowed it down to three: the Atlantic Puffin, Snowy Owl, and the American Woodcock.  

Daisy Hernandez is a student at South Suburban College where she is perusing a degree in zoology and was this year’s Assistant Crew Chief. The Audubon Habitat Restoration Internship was Daisy's introduction into conservation. Through the immersive experience, Daisy gained a multifaceted perspective on conservation, and the importance of nurturing coexistence among diverse organisms within ecosystems. Her favorite bird is the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Marissa Madlock recently graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago with a degree in environmental biology. Marissa became interested in birds after participating in bird banding and volunteering in the Field Museum’s Bird Lab. This summer, Marissa was proud to help conserve urban parks and forest preserves. Her favorite bird is the Great Eared Nightjar. 


Fabiola Padron is a student at the University of Illinois, Chicago studying environmental science. During her internship, Fabiola gained a profound appreciation for hands-on restoration work that creates long-lasting change. She hopes to pursue a career in conservation. Her favorite bird is the Black-capped Chickadee.


We thank this year’s Restoration Interns for their ecological restoration and land stewardship.

- Esther Obire, Audubon Great Lakes Communications Intern


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