Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
Much has happened in our Chapter recently. The capstone event was the application of the Town Meeting model for an open and constructive membership dialogue to discuss“what's next?” The session was held at the NSB Library on 26 Jan
This followed a Chapter field event led by Gail Domroski.
There were 14 in attendance who shared their ideas about projects,
priority, and direction. The main focus was on the local natural
environment and how to overcome threats to preserving and enhancing it.
Notions of activism abounded. Some examples were: regular attendance at
local and county decision making bodies as advocates, lobbyists, and
educators; provide recognition and awards to local businesses and
entities for environmental or"green landscaping” accomplishments;
more cooperation and collaboration with local/regional environmental groups; - and public stands and/or voter
support for environmentally minded political nominees and
The notes from the session are comprehensive, and are included
Already there have been a number of involvements which surfaced. Examples: A get out the vote effort for an environmental supporter running for office in Edgewater,
possible reengagement with Smyrna Dunes Park, and collaboration with MDC in a project to enhance the campus's birding environment with flower and food source plants. You will hear more details as they emerge at Chapter meetings.
So, you say “how can we accommodate these new directions, when a
common complaint is that we don't have enough committed members to fill
out our current committee and outreach efforts?". Member
recommitment, a project centered bottom-up decision making
process, and a new cadre of like minded membership adds, attracted by
the excitement of what we actually do and accomplish in the community.
I believe the elusive answers lie here.
Following a morning birding field trip sponsored by SEVAS to the boardwalk across from Goodrich Restaurant, and a trip to River Breeze Park — both in Oak Hill —the chapter convened to New Smyrna Beach Library for a town meeting style gathering for a strategic planning session. There were 12 members present and 2 visitors from Ontario.
Vice-President John Pierce opened the meeting with an introduction of Jacqui Sulek to this gathering of dedicated “birders.” After a delightful morning of birding organized by Gail Domroski, and in the company of Jacqui Sulek, we looked forward to hearing Jacqui's thoughts and engaging in a round table discussion. As the Chapter Conservation Manager for Florida Audubon, she is the “main interface between the volunteer network and Audubon Florida staff. She described herself as a resource for chapters teaching conservation and appreciation for Audubon’s habitat preservation work. Jacqui's clearly well qualified to be the moderator for this important SEVAS planning session.
Jacqui began the session with a brief slideshow — “Birdland” — as an introduction to other Florida chapters that highlighted programs and projects that they had organized to support education, outreach, community service and spread the word about Audubons's missions as an organization dedicated to birds and their habitat.
She then opened the conversation by addressing concerns raised in the questionnaire John had circulated via email. She did so by shaping the discussion with questions. Her first one was, “who are we (SEVAS) as an organization? The answers could be summarized as:
● A birding group teaching about birds
● A desire for more interest in conservation presentations
● Sad about losses
● With an historical perspective
● Excited about new birds
● Social organization
● Forming community within the chapter
She began by asking the group to describe the movement that gave life to the Audubon organization.
● Audubon formed in response to a threat to the snowy egret population. Their population was being decimated by hunters killing them for their feathers to be used in womensn'shats. The survival of the snowy egrets was in danger, and without conservation action they would quickly become extinct.
Then she asked us what was the motivation for the formation of SEVAS?
● SEVAS, too, began in response to a particular threat. In the early 1970’s, the natural
habitat at Dunes Park was being destroyed by dune buggy activity, and dogs running loose were threatening the wildlife.
The conversation about SEVASs motivating mission evolved as an Audubon chapter with a core value that members are “Bird people,” the question was raised about the by-laws — do we have by-laws and have they been reviewed recently? The answer was “yes,” and it has been about 5 to 7 years since they have been reviewed.
From there the conversation shifted to what can we identify as positive factors that influence bird life in Volusia County?
● A protected inlet
● Public parks for habitat
● Ocean and inlet habitat
What are obstacles that impact birds locally?
● Unleashed dogs
● Feral cats
● Overdevelopment without concern for a “green” environment
● Lack of enforcement of local regulations
Thus, the chapter’s strategy should be developed around these points that
identify both — appreciation for the local environment, and finding ways to overcome obstacles to preserve it.
Then the question was “how do we use the talents within the group to actively respond to the obstacles identified?”
● Perhaps groups within the chapter will each have a particular focus —attending city and county meetings, organizing birding trips, building community within the chapter, developing brochures for education, etc.
As part of the conversation, Ed Carson pointed out that a local restaurant, “The Garlic,” has conscientiously incorporated green landscaping practices, e.g.
● Use of native plantings around building and parking lot
● Parking lot is gravel rather than paved
This stimulated a lively conversation about how our chapter could make positive connections with local businesses and the public by:
● Practicing good public relations by reaching out to The Garlic Restaurant
● Publicly recognizing the restaurants green landscaping with a certificate of appreciation
● Recognizing this as an opportunity to create greater visibility for SEVAS
● Making it a teaching opportunity for patrons to be educated about the importance of the
use of green landscaping for birds and local wildlife habitat
Another approach to consider is making local connections
● Act as lobbyists and educators while attending meetings of city and county commissions
● Speak up at meetings with appropriate compliments when they address environmental
● Speak up as well to address concerns about habitat conservation
● Be prepared to use photos and data showing how a healthy bird habitat is not only good
for the birds but for the well being of the whole community
● Practice winning over town and county officials with friendly persuasion
Look for opportunities to make friends through supporting local organizations, e.g.:
● John and Gail will be representing SEVAS at the City of New Smyrna Beach event
“Know Your Island,” Wednesday, February 13 at Esther Park. They will
be leading the
program on shore birds. On the same day, Don will be giving a
program on the "Birds of the IRL" to about 50 people in Edgewater
● Ed is also working with Marine Discovery Center teaching a birding class to school
children visiting the center.
● Ed expressed an interest to work with MDC to create a Plants for Birds Garden.
Jacqui then brought the conversation around to “Why do we want new members?” Initial responses focused on:
● Needing more people to help with educating the public about the need for bird conservation, and healthy natural habitats
● Addressing concerns about reaching the “next generation.”
● More members to fulfill committee functions.
Jacqui noted that new members are attracted to organizations that are publicly viewed as a lively, enthusiastic group with an attractive mission such as:
● People who are actively engaged in ongoing education about birds and their habitat
● Members participate and support the larger organization's birding events and gatherings,
e.g Audubon assemblies, attend meetings with other regional chapters.
● We learn from each other and offer assistance for mutual support.
● One particular suggestion for starters is to offer an eBird workshop for members and the
public at large to teach us how we canuse this app to learn to identify species and also
participate in a nation wide citizen scientist bird count.
● Workshops like this makes the whole organization appealing to regulars and
● Communications within the club keeps everyone — both active members and those not attending meetings — in touch with chapter birding news and events perhaps
● Birding websites addresses are published within the club, presentations by others with an interest in natural wildlife are posted.
Next the question of funding the chapter's programs was discussed.
Jacqui identified 3 grants that Audubon offers to chapters
● Collaborative Funding Grant
● Audubon in Action Award
● Plants for Birds Grant
What about the “next generation?”
● Provide internships and chapter projects that are attractive to students preparing
resumes for college and/or job interviews.
● Generally, teens and young adults are very interested in activities involved with
programs and projects around environmental and natural habitat conservation.
● Offer chapter collaboration and support for student initiated projects.
● Other initiatives suggested for the chapter were collaborating and supporting “Plants for
Birds” at MDC, and the new park being developed in Edgewater
Jacqui closed the meeting with some helpful observations about chapter organization, and asked for participants observations:
● A question was raised about monthly meetings and trying to accommodate both program and business.
● She suggested open monthly board meetings for business. All members could attend, and noted that her chapter board meetings always begin with “what good birds have you seen recently?”
● Meetings with a speaker would be offered separately. As an example, some chapters have “birds and brunch” meetings during the year.
● She also discussed how some chapters focus on a major annual juried event that may involve wildlife artists, education programs, etc. that attracts everybody in the city and school district.
● Income from this event could be dedicated to an improvement project.
● Last there were comments in support of Jacqui’s suggestion that would call on the
chapter to re-imagine and re-think how this chapter moves forward.
Post Script: as people were chatting around the room Jacqui was asked to clarify the what she meant about board meetings. She identified 2 levels. An executive board meeting includes the president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The executive board meets only as necessary. A monthly board meeting is an open meeting — all members may attend.