MANY VOICES FOR CONSERVATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Continuing our series focusing on the contributions of historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are featuring Edward Waters College student Onecia Adams, who is a student participant in this year's Audubon Florida Conservation Leadership Initiative (CLI). Here is Onecia's story in her own words:
"I was born and raised in a small country called Guyana, a place where many people I meet haven’t heard of before. I spent the most days of my life living in a place that appeared to be devoid of any beauty. Polluted waterways, garbage in the streets and decrepit buildings surrounded me wherever I went. Although there was so much ugly around me, I found beauty and solace in the trees and the ocean. I made a habit of slipping away from my house and venturing out to see the ocean whenever I had a chance. I would sit and watch the waves and mentally drift away to a place that was devoid of pollution and remained in the pristine condition God had created it in. Unfortunately, I would have to return to reality and the scent of dead fish usually did it for me. The ocean was my escape, even though it was visibly polluted, it was the best thing I could experience. I knew that I wanted to always have that place to come to and I knew that I wanted to make it a cleaner, healthier environment. I believe that is how I developed an interest in conservation.
Though the city where I grew up was not a very beautiful place, there are many parts of my country that are exquisitely composed of the best things nature has to offer. I learnt about these beautiful places but I was never afforded the privilege to experience any of them. From the magnificent Kaieteur Falls, the largest single drop waterfall in the world, to the Iwokrama River Lodge, nestled in a very prolific ecosystem brimming with biodiversity, they were all so close but yet out of my reach. I don’t know when or how the desire to see and experience nature was planted inside me, but I know it is the deepest desire I’ve ever had. The more I was denied the opportunity to experience these things because I simply could not afford it or my mother had more important things to do with money, the more I craved it. I knew that I had to change my situation because I could not bear the idea of dying before I had the chance to truly live.
I continue to find myself in less than ideal environments as I pursue my educational goals but I persevere in the hope that someday I will be working to make the world a better, healthier place for all living things. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. This past Fall I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of Audubon’s Conservation Leadership Initiative and have been involved with Duval Audubon Society under my mentor Carolyn Antman. I’ve really enjoyed the learning experiences provided by CLI events even though it was virtual. I was also able to visit the Crosby Sanctuary and it felt really great to experience a natural space after being stuck indoors for too long. I’m very excited to become a part of the conservation community in Duval Audubon and I feel like I am on the brink of being able to experience all the nature I could not growing up and so much more."
Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, Onecia. We are thrilled to be working with you!
--Carol Bailey-White, President
EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT AT CROSBY SANCTUARY
On December 21, seven Scouts took time out of their holiday vacation to build picnic tables and a seating area at Crosby Sanctuary. Led by Marina Mitchell of Troop 291 in Ponte Vedra Beach and her father Gary Mitchell, these Scouts spent all morning helping Marina complete her Eagle Scout project. This is the third time Marina has done a project at Crosby: the first was trail blazing in December 2016 and the second when she and her father rescued and restored our bridge in 2018 after it was damaged during Hurricane Irma.
After Marina planned the project and its financing, her father helped with getting the wood, cutting it, and bringing it out to the site. That’s when everyone pitched in to assemble five benches and two picnic tables with attached benches. The five benches were put in a semi-circle to serve as an Education/Gathering Area and the picnic tables can be used for projects or for picnics!
Many thanks to Gary Mitchell, father and facilitator, Elaine Mitchell, leader, and Marina Mitchell, Sophia Kokkinos, Ella Lopez, and Nishita Ramesh of Troop 291; to Grant Mitchell of Troop 288 for helping his sister; to Wynn Watson and his sons Kyle and Bryce of Troop 15 in Jacksonville Beach; and to Dick Basye, Committee Chair for Troop 291. This project is a welcome addition to our entrance.
--Carolyn Antman, Conservation Director
BRIEF BOOK REVIEWS by Dan Lucas
Looking for some great reads for the new year? I had the opportunity this summer to read through four different books, describing bird life. Each one in its turn different, yet comforting, as it is impossible to imagine a world without these wonderful creatures, serenading a rising sun and bidding farewell to another day.
~ Birds, An Anthology. Edited by Jacqueline Mitchell, with woodcuts by Eric Fitch Daglish. Published by the Bodheraine Library. This pleasant anthology has 9 headings to it, such as Birds in Flight, Birds and Us, Hawks and Eagles, and A Birding Year. Each subject is addressed by English naturalists and poets, primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries, who spent considerable time in the countryside observing and thinking about birds. Anthologies are meant to thumb through, and this book has given me many delightful moments, as well as the occasional flash of recognition of how my experiences with birds and natural life are similar to those described in the book.
~ American Birds, A Literary Companion. Edited by Andrew Rubenfeld and Terry Tempest Williams. Published by Library of America. Our country has been blessed to have many men and women who have written with great insight about the lives of birds and our lives with them. Over 70 writers are represented in this anthology of poems and short essays. Each one is an astute and compassionate observer and commentator about our winged friends. An example:
Screech Owl (2004), by Ted Kooser
American Birds will give you many hours of pleasure, as only great American artists can.
~ Owls of the Eastern Ice, A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. This story takes place in the Russian Province of Primorye. Slaght and his fellow Russian orinthologists tackle a project to identify and monitor Blakiston’s Fish Owls, one of the most mysterious birds on the planet. Their efforts to create a program to save these owls in the wild environment on the edge of the Sea of Japan is an enthralling story of dashes across thawing rivers, unpredictable weather and local fauna. It is a rare glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist sensitive to the beauty, strength, and vulnerability of the natural world. This book kept me up at night because it is a true tale written with an end that gives the reader hope for the future survival of birds, and I might add, humans.
~ An Indifference of Birds by Richard Smyth. Published by Uniformbooks. This book takes quite a different view. The blurb that sent me to this book is as follows: "Human history – from a bird’s eye view. History isn’t so much about the passage of time as the study of change – how did we get from then to now, from there to here? To write a history of birds and people, you can look at how they’ve changed us, or you can look at how we’ve changed them." This book seeks to do the second thing; this is a book about our place in their history. This is one of the most interesting and unique books that I have read in several years. Eye-opening and historically provocative, it makes you think about our friends in the air and our lives on the ground.
--Dan Lucas, Guest Contributor
JOIN OUR TEAM!
Founded in 1939, Duval Audubon Society is a chapter of Audubon Florida and the National Audubon Society. We currently have approximately 1,000 members in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties and are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Our chapter is dedicated to the enjoyment of birds and other wildlife. We have a primary focus on the preservation of a diversity of species and habitats through education, conservation, environmental leadership, and community involvement. We offer a variety of programs, special events, and volunteer opportunities that are open for anyone to attend.
We are an all-volunteer chapter governed by a Board of Directors who work together to determine the activities offered by the organization to further our mission, “Connecting people with nature, conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife.”
Currently there are several Board vacancies, and we encourage anyone interested in serving as a Board member to apply. Board members are expected to attend monthly meetings (held virtually via Zoom) and participate in chapter activities on a regular basis. Board Officers are appointed for a one-year term, and Directors serve for two years. All Board members may continue serving beyond their initial term if willing and approved by the Board.
If you are committed to helping to connect people with nature, please consider applying to join us in managing our chapter. You don’t have to be an expert birder, but having a love for nature and a passion for protecting and conserving birds and other wildlife would make you a wonderful addition to our team!
Questions? Please feel free to contact Carol or any current Board member.
Although the news of an effective coronavirus vaccine is encouraging, it looks like it will still be some months before the spread of the virus slows down. With the pandemic still surging, our Board of Directors has decided that we will continue to limit hosted in-person activities this year (at least for the first few months) to ensure the health and safety of our members and volunteers. Registration will be limited for most activities, and participants and volunteers will be required to observe COVID-19 safety measures (masks, social distancing).
Our Crosby Sanctuary conservation property in Orange Park has become a focal point for chapter events during the coronavirus crisis, as its 2.5 miles of trails through a variety of ecosystems offer visitors an opportunity to get some much-needed nature therapy and still observe the sensible social distancing and other precautions recommended by the CDC. Several events based at Crosby are planned for January, and we are also hosting some exciting virtual events this month.
Here’s what’s happening in January:
Best wishes from all of us for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year! We look forward to seeing you soon.
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.