This is a story that began 115 years ago. The year was 1899 when two young women, Ceclie Seixas aged 15 and Estelle Hertford aged 23, were inspired into action and started the first Audubon chapter in Texas, six years prior to the incorporation of the National Audubon Society in New York. These women and their peers were courageously standing in opposition to the harmful practice of taking waterbirds and water fowl for their feathers in order to make ornamental hats and clothing, a prolific fashion trend of the time. The demand for bird plumage had reached proportions that were rapidly wiping out the populations of 40 different species of colonial waterbirds along the gulf coast in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. A few years prior in 1886, the price of bird plumage was selling for $32 per ounce, more than twice the price of gold. A single auction house in London sold 1,608 packets of heron feathers that year, featuring 48,240 feathers that represented the destruction of over 200,000 birds. A national ban on this popular practice was established by the activism and courage of women who inspired a movement of bird and wildlife conservation that endures today.
To honor the roots of Audubon and the courage of conservation pioneers, 115 years later Audubon Texas has proudly created the Texas Women in Conservation Program and the Terry Hershey Award. Our Women in Conservation Program recognizes outstanding women leaders in today's conservation movement throughout the Lone Star State, supports opportunities in Texas for girls and women to become more involved in conservation and environmental sciences, and engages women on important issues related to conservation in Texas.
A Program for the Future
Other than the annual Terry Hershey Awards, Audubon's Texas Women in Conservation Program creates a framework through which we are working to nurture tomorrow's women conservationists and environmental leadership opportunities. This program is comprised of three major service components: Rachel Carson Field Internships, the Young Women's Conservation Action Program, and the Terry Hershey Scholarship and Grant program.
Rachel Carson Field Internships
Audubon is committed to promoting and providing opportunities for young women interested in science and environmental careers. Sponsored by the Texas Women in Conservation Program, our Rachel Carson Field Internship gives a young woman the opportunity to develop skills in habitat stewardship and wildlife management through on-the-ground field experience. There are two internship positions funded each year for 12-weeks each, and are focused in one of our three primary conservation programs — coastal conservation, urban conservation and prairie & grassland conservation.
Young Women's Conservation Action Program
The program is designed to engage girls in the unique issues pertaining to conservation in Texas through events and outings throughout the year. In a tiered format where programs build in intensity and depth, girls will participate in hands-on programs at Trinity River Audubon Center (Dallas), Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center (Cedar Hill), and Mitchell Lake Audubon Center (San Antonio), as well as extensive field experiences in nearby natural resource areas to study prevailing challenges and conservation opportunities with a specific focus on water, air, and habitat protection. The program will culminate in a citizen science camp as a capstone experience an overnight camping trip to give young women the opportunity to learn outdoor education from Audubon Texas educators, with additional training from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This program will be managed at no cost to the participating young women.
Terry Hershey Scholarship and Grant Program
Audubon Texas will reserve a portion of the net funds raised through the Texas Women in Conservation program each year in the Texas Women in Conservation Fund. This fund will be administered by Audubon Texas and utilized to distribute scholarships and grants up to $10,000 to young women seeking higher education in conservation or environmental sciences and/or to organizations within the state of Texas for programs meeting the eligibility requirements that support the growth and participation of girls and women in the field of conservation science. This element of the Texas Women in Conservation Program is designed to further reinforce the importance of programs that focus on advancing girl participation in sciences as a priority in organizations throughout the state.