Audubon Assembly

Florida State Parks Staff Recognized at Audubon Florida Virtual Assembly

Michelle Waterman and Allison Conboy received the Special Places Award.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Audubon Florida honored seven individuals for their exceptional conservation efforts during the 2020 Audubon Florida Virtual Assembly. Nearly 600 participants signed on to engage in the 2020 Audubon Florida Virtual Assembly. For decades, Audubon Florida has gathered its staff, members, partners, and other stakeholders under one roof for an in-person celebration of the prior year’s accomplishments and a look ahead at coming priorities. Due to the pandemic, 2020 marked the first time ever the event was held virtually.

This year’s Special Places Award honors Michelle Waterman, Park Manager at the Talbot Islands State Parks, and Allison Conboy, Park Services Specialist at the Talbot Islands State Parks, for their continued, exemplary service protecting shorebirds and their critical habitat. Conboy and Waterman work in some of Florida’s truly special places.

The Talbot Island State Parks include no less than seven individual state parks that conserve a range of coastal habitats, including strand, hammock, dunes, bluffs, and more. Several of these parks border Nassau Sound, historically one of the most important nesting areas for shorebirds along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Conboy and Waterman, both active members of the Timucuan Shorebird Partnership, have worked tirelessly with partners to help restore shorebird species diversity and productivity in this region. This work includes a multitude of efforts to manage and restore shorebird habitat as well as reduce threats to nesting shorebirds from predation and human disturbance.

Additionally, Conboy and Waterman facilitated the re-establishment of the Nassau Sound Islands Critical Wildlife Area and have been instrumental in both protecting this habitat and educating the public about the importance of this nesting area.

Audubon Florida’s Northeast Florida policy analyst Chris Farrell presented the awards.

“Thank you and congratulations to Michelle and Allison!” said Farrell. “We look forward to many more years of partnership working to restore shorebird populations in Northeast Florida.”

Many other conservation leaders were similarly recognized during this year’s Assembly, including:

  • Ann Harwood-Nuss, Ph.D., was named Distinguished Philanthropist
  • Lt. Rob Gerkin with FWC received the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award
  • Ann Paul received the Guy Bradley Award
  • Peter Frederick, Ph.D., received the Everglades Champion Award
  • Maggie Haynes at Audubon’s Center for Birds of Prey received the Volunteer of the Year award

Hosted Oct. 20-24, the 2020 Audubon Florida Virtual Assembly, entitled “Reimagining Audubon Florida: A Call for Inclusive Conservation,” included panel discussions and provided virtual field trips to Audubon centers and priority areas in Florida. During the Keynote Presentation, J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D, author, poet, and wildlife biologist, discussed life his experiences as a Black birder, his work in the conservation field, and his vision for the future.

The awards were presented virtually during the event and plaques were sent to each individual. Registered participants received a copy of Lanham’s book, The Home Place.

The event was generously sponsored by Darden Restaurants, Florida Power & Light Co., Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Publix, Vortex, Rayonier, The Merrill G. and Amita E. Hastings Foundation, and Wild Birds Unlimited, with additional support from the Jessie DuPont Ball Foundation.

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