Audubon Conservation Leaders (ACL) program wrapped it’s eighth year with a splash! This year’s program, themed ‘Coasts,’ aligns with the Audubon Texas centennial anniversary of formal conservation and stewardship efforts. Texas waterways are a critical connection to inland community impacts and the health and resiliency of coastal and oceanic ecosystems. With our partner the Young Women’s Preparatory School, we illuminated our connection to the ocean, wherever our roots may be. Participants studied plastic impacts from both the beginning stages via Nurdle with University of Texas Marine Science Institute and end of life plastic with SPLASh programming. They learned about the human-wildlife interactions happening on our coasts with from our partner at American Bird Conservancy. In-person field trips focused on connection, outdoor time, cultural understanding, and communication.
For the first time post-pandemic, ACL students returned for a weeklong overnight camp. So much magic happens at camp! To be sure, doing outdoor camp during the kick off of a very hot summer made from challenging days, but we were comforted by use of Welder Wildlife Foundation bunkhouse. Days were filled with activities ranging from boat trips to hiking to bird banding. Evenings were filled with good food, fellowship, and conversation. Each student participated in ACL’s signature “conservation cook-off” as well. We’re grateful for the students!
This year, our camp gave voice to student experiences in two new ways: Students did an IG takeover for the week, sending in images and captions from their own perspective. Additionally, our Audubon Conservation Leader intern, Jacqueline Cruz, sat down with a different leader each evening and recorded a summary of the day from their perspective. Here’s how participants viewed ACL camp:
Hello, my name is Andrea! On our first day at ACL camp, we arrived at Mitchell Lake in San Antonio and met the Dallas group through some engaging ice breakers. I was excited to arrive at Welder Wildlife Foundation because I was interested in
learning what the foundation itself was all about. Once we got settled in, we had the opportunity to explore and learn about the property, including its history and its mission. I am looking forward to seeing all the birds in the area and to go kayaking on Thursday at Little Bay because that’s one of my favorite activities!
Hello, my name is Jordyn! I felt very at home today. We began the day by driving to the beach and doing a nurdle patrol pick-up at the different tide stages, which I really enjoyed because when thinking about pollution, we often forget about the
smaller things like micro-trash. After picking up some nurdles, and other trash we found on the beach, we had the opportunity to get on the Katy boat and catch different species of fish, squid, and even shrimp. Handling marine species solidified my passion for conservation, which is the career path I plan to pursue. I was also very excited about the wildlife we got to see, like the deer and cattle while on our tour around the Welder grounds with Angie.
Hi, my name is Lyla! This is my second year as an ACL member, and I was excited to do the conservation project because I really like having an impact, especially at a wildlife refuge. Knowing that the milkweed we planted at Welder Life Foundation
will leave a positive impact on the butterfly population has inspired me to start my own garden. I also enjoyed our mindful moments during our hike with Angie and collaborating with our groups to build the tallest spaghetti tower.
Hi, my name is Ana, and this is my fourth year as an Audubon Conservation leader!! Sadly, this is my first and last-time participating in an in-person camp, and I have enjoyed every second of it (besides the mosquito bites). For today my highlights were kayaking, swimming at the beach, and participating in a micro trash clean-up. Although I was exhausted, having the opportunity to see birds I otherwise wouldn’t have has been so inspiring. Throughout the week we participated in conservation projects and getting to see them felt like a reward for all our hard work. By the night, we had a traditional ACL
cookoff. Our team was resourceful with the food we had left over from previous nights. Even though we came in second place, I felt I grew closer to the people on my team by communicating and compromising. This experience is a great send off from my home state, Texas, and an amazing woman, Ms. Yvette.
Hello, my name is Jacqueline Cruz, and I am the Audubon Conservation Leader (ACL) intern! As our time in camp comes to an end, it has been nice to see our leaders break out of their shells and bond across schools. Seeing their collaborative efforts in group competitions and observing their discussions to reach collective agreements on their preferences has been awesome. I had so much fun interviewing some of the amazing leaders and gaining their insights on camp as it progressed. Overall, it has been a bittersweet end as we say goodbye to our three seniors who are on to the next chapter of their lives.