Brian Cammarano, Seasonal Lee County Anchor Steward
Brian first became involved with Audubon Florida through the Conservation Leadership Initiative. "This is where I realized how many amazing opportunities Audubon had to offer for an aspiring conservation biologist such as myself," he explains.
Knowing that coastal development is causing habitat loss for our nesting shorebirds, he wanted to contribute to the conservation efforts already in place to protect these declining species. "Think globally, act locally is what I like to say in regards to fighting for environmental protection." Brian says, "Also, who doesn't want to call the beach their office!"
Alex Lappin, Navarre Bird Steward
Alex grew up in New Jersey, spending summers on Long Beach Island. Ever since she can remember, she has always loved coastal ecosystems and would "study" the wildlife she observed as a kid. "It was not a difficult decision for me to major in wildlife conservation at the University of Delaware," she explains.
In the summer of 2018, she interned with a Ph.D. candidate researching Piping Plovers along the coastline of New Jersey: "It was so amazing to be in my home state and working to protect such a charismatic endangered species."
After graduating in 2019, Alex moved to Florida to work in coastal conservation and with shorebirds. "When I found this position with Audubon, I was ecstatic. We had learned so much about the history of the Audubon Society in school, and my interests in conservation strongly aligned with Audubon's mission. I knew that it would be a great next step for me in my wildlife career."
Working in the Florida Panhandle, Alex loves learning more about the breeding ecology of shorebirds. "I find it fascinating to watch both the intraspecific and interspecific interactions within colonies. I love watching the behaviors of adults and chicks, and seeing how they change as the season progresses," she continues.
Plus, what is cuter than watching a little chick head pop out from beneath its parents' wings?
Kylie Wilson, Seasonal Sarasota Bird Stewardship Coordinator
Kylie is a Sarasota native and has always loved the beach and nature. The beach is her happy place! While studying biology at Florida State University she took a class in ornithology and fell in love with birds. "When I decided that avian conservation was the path I wanted to take," she explained, "I looked into volunteer opportunities with my local Audubon chapter, Sarasota Audubon Society."
When volunteering for the Winter Shorebird Survey in 2017, she learned there would be a job opening at Audubon Florida for the following year. "I applied for the job as the local seasonal shorebird stewardship and monitoring coordinator," Kylie continues, "The rest is history."
Kylie loves working on the beach with the incredible and imperiled bird species, like the Black Skimmer and Snowy Plover. "It's a dream come true!"
Carly Landa, Seasonal Pensacola Bird Steward
Carly has always been passionate about wild things, and especially birds.
"As a kid," she explains, "I was always out in the woods by my house, exploring and observing the natural world." She continues: "I started birding more seriously while I was getting my graduate degree in natural resources -- it was a form of active meditation for me. I was having bad anxiety at the time (grad school will do that!) and birding was a way for me to get out of my head, to stop stressing about the future or ruminating on the past -- a way to quiet my mind and observe the present moment."
Though Carly has taught birding classes and worked with birds of prey in the past, shorebirds and coastal work presented a new challenge. "I welcomed the opportunity," she says, "because I actually grew up right here in Pensacola, where I work! I’m grateful every day to give something back to the city (and habitat) which first sparked my interest in wildlife. Coastal ecosystems are so unique and especially vulnerable to environmental challenges and human development. It’s been fascinating to see the places where I spent my youth with new eyes and new appreciation."
For Carly, each day on the beach represents an opportunity to study these unique birds, but she especially loves "to see nearly grown chicks stretching their newly feathered wings and learning awkwardly how to fly. This isn’t just an objectively heart-warming moment for a bird lover (it is!) but it also means that these incredible animals -- who already traveled so many miles to get here to our beaches, and faced so many challenges to nest and raise their young -- are finally successfully producing nearly grown babies."
Savannah Penney, Nassau Sound Anchor Steward
Savannah is from the Midwest and was excited to learn about the coastal birds so different from the species she grew up with. "I was hired to conduct research by another organization, that then recommended the Audubon position to me since there was overlap in the field areas," she explained. "I had learned of Audubon while in college and became greatly interested in their conservation work, so I was eager to get involved."
As an anchor steward. Savannah loves making connections with people who otherwise would not have known anything about the birds on the beach. "It's very rewarding to teach people about their local birds and get them excited about the conservation work we do," she continues. "I also love photographing the birds while I'm out there!"
Abigail Gibson, Mid-Pinellas County Anchor Steward
Abigail has always found birds interesting but discovered her passion for the avian world while taking a vertebrate zoology course at the University of Tampa. "If I wasn't studying for school, I was bird-watching and identifying species I was unfamiliar with," she says. As her knowledge grew, she began to wonder: could she combine her marine biology knowledge with her love of birds?
Yes! "As a recent graduate, I was searching for open jobs and saw the Anchor Steward position for Pinellas County. Audubon is an organization that I have always been in awe of. The conservation efforts, extensive educational material, and international partnerships make Audubon special and something important to be a part of. I am thrilled I get to be a part of something as grand as Audubon!"
As an anchor steward, she loves watching the birds week after week, especially watching the chicks grow. Like many of our other anchor stewards, her favorite part of the job is sharing information with the public. "To be able to express the importance of a species and Audubon’s efforts to someone who may know nothing about it and in turn see a gained interest and appreciation for those birds is special," Abigail says. "Not only am I helping to protect the birds through education, but they could also gain a new passion for birds like the one I found through my professor."
Kara Cook, Tampa Bay Rooftop Biologist
As an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Kara took an ornithology course that led to her interest in shorebirds. "There are species that migrate through Missouri in the spring that we were able to see," she explains, "After I saw my first American Avocet in breeding plumage I was awestruck!"
More recently, she became interested in shorebird work after hearing about the opportunity to become a volunteer with Audubon as a bird steward for Black Skimmers at St. Pete Beach. After stewarding for a season and doing non-breeding shorebird surveys in the winter, she became Audubon's newest rooftop biologist!
"My favorite part about this job is knowing that I am making a difference for our breeding shorebirds by helping protect them and their nesting habitat as well as educating people about them," Kara says.