by Kiana Leveritte, Greening Youth Foundation Intern, and Gabe Andrle, Conservation Program Coordinator
When did you know that working in the environmental science field was a career for you?
As early as I can remember, I have been fascinated by nature. I spent many hours reading books, watching TV shows, and most importantly spending time outside. Whether it was catching frogs or playing sports, the outdoors was the place to be. The idea of having a career in the environmental field was affirmed while I was a teen volunteer at Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo. This program brought together a large cohort of my peers who all shared a love for nature. It not only allowed us to grow our passion and knowledge with regard to the natural world, but it connected us with professionals in the field who showed us that many career options were available. This experience led me to major in environmental sciences in college, which prepared me for the future.
What made you want to work for Atlanta Audubon?
My current position at Atlanta Audubon is the perfect blend of my past professional experiences. It was realizing this that drove me to apply for the position. Since I was a senior in college, I have had a part-time position as an interpretive ranger at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This position is a mix of environmental education, habitat restoration, and forest management. My most recent full-time position was as a bird keeper at Zoo Atlanta, focused on animal husbandry and conservation. As Conservation Program Coordinator at Atlanta Audubon, I get to take my bird-conservation experience and mix it with my habitat-conservation experience in managing our Wildlife Sanctuary Certification Program and our Plants for Birds program.
What do you look forward to working at Atlanta Audubon?
I look forward to finding creative ways to build places where birds and people thrive. I love problem solving and I love connecting people with nature. Whether it is brainstorming ideas for new programs or helping someone find the best way to build wildlife habitat in their backyard, I enjoy building a strong and welcoming, environmentally-minded community.
What have been some of your favorite projects to work on so far?
I am just starting, but I am incredibly excited to be working on our Wildlife Sanctuary Program. This program allows me to connect with people in the community and empower them to be stewards in urban conservation. This program has so much potential for growth not only within our organization, but with every individual who participates in it.
What are some of your favorite places to go birding in Atlanta and its metro area?
I am really bad at picking favorites. I enjoy birding wherever I can. I think that is one of my favorite things about birding: you can do it anywhere, and you never know what you will see or learn. I enjoy going to places I have never been before, to see new birds, new people and a new part of the city. I also deeply value birding close to home because I can connect with my community and neighborhood.
Do you have a favorite plant? Why or why not?
Not sure, but if I had to pick, perhaps it would be American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). As a young boy, I used to collect fallen limbs from sycamore trees and use them in my temporary terrariums where I would keep frogs and toads. I loved the distinct and unique shapes of the branches and variety within the bark. These large trees have a wide range and always stick out to me. They are a great shade tree and attract plenty of birds.
Do you have a favorite bird. Why or why not?
I can never pick a favorite when it comes to animals. My answer will probably always change as I am constantly learning more about them and seeing them in new and unique ways. Some of my current favorites are all woodpeckers, Green Jays, Carolina Chickadees, and King Vultures.
Do you have any advice for prospective wildlife sanctuary owners, or those that are just now dipping their feet into environmental stewardship and conservation?
Three great pieces of advice are 1) spend more time outside observing the natural world around you—nothing beats time spent in the field. 2) never stop learning—seek new information, new perspectives, and new resources. 3) be positive—making the most out of the opportunities you have, no matter the circumstances, is something to be proud of.