Do you like birds and nature? Do you want to become more active in wildlife and habitat conservation? Do you want to know more about the wonders of our local ecosystems? If so, the Champaign County Audubon Society (CCAS) might be the place for you. I sat down with the president, Sara Johnson, for a Q&A about the organization and how students can get involved:
Green Observer: How did you become involved with CCAS?
Sara Johnson: I often have extra time for volunteering between seasonal field work and was looking to get involved with CCAS by working on developing their social media accounts and website. I was encouraged to come to a board meeting with suggestions and ideas in the Fall of 2016. I happened to come to the end of year meeting when the board plans their nomination slate for the following year. There was no one available to step up as President so I agreed to try it out! It has been a great year since with new collaborations and opportunities every month. I just began my second term as CCAS president.
Green Observer: How can we (UIUC students) become part of CCAS and how much does it cost? Are there any UIUC students/alumni already part of CCAS?
Sara Johnson: Many of our board members are UIUC alumni and some still work there! The society is always looking for new ideas on how to increase our visibility, membership, and programming. We encourage anyone interested in doing more to come to a board meeting (the third Monday of the month) to share with us their strengths and what they feel they can bring to the group. Individuals are welcome to become part of our board as either a voting or a non-voting member based on how much they are able and willing to commit. Other than volunteering, students are welcome to become a member and join in on one of our many activities we have to offer. Membership is only $15 a year and gives you access to our newsletter listing all of our upcoming events and volunteering opportunities.
Green Observer: Can non-members partake in any CCAS activities?
Sara Johnson: With the exception of our member-exclusive hikes once a month, all of our events are open to the public and are almost always free. We encourage membership to assist with the costs associated with running some of our programming. Members also get a discount at our nature shop at the Anita Purves Nature Center where they can get field guides, binoculars, bird feeders, you name it!
Green Observer: What other type of activities do CCAS host? Any community outreach activities? Any funding opportunities for UIUC students?
Sara Johnson: CCAS hosts a wide array of activities from volunteer opportunities to public programs. We host a presentation series monthly as part of our member meetings. Many U of I students have presented their research at our meetings including recipients of our Kendeigh Grants; a grant available to students doing ornithological research in Illinois. We host free Sunday morning bird walks during spring and fall migration and collaborate on many stewardship opportunities with the Urbana Parks district. There are many citizen science events and bird counts including our Bird-a-thon in May which fund the Kendeigh grant awards. Our application window for Kendeigh grants is open until March, 25th 2018. Happy hours, trivia events, and field trips are all additional programs we have found to be really fun and successful.
Green Observer: How do we find out more about these activities? Facebook/website/Twitter?
Sara Johnson: CCAS has a brand new website (www.champaigncountyaudubon.org) that has all of our events posted as well as access to our newsletter, birding locations, identification tools, and resources for educators. Information about the Kendeigh grant can also be found on our website as well as our membership form. Our Facebook page has all of our events (@ChampaignAudubon), as well as opportunities for contacting your representatives regarding current changes in laws like the Migratory Bird Act, interesting blog posts, and affiliate events like owl prowls. We also maintain a birdnotes listserve that alerts you to any rare bird sightings in town as well!