This is the 45th of 50 Days of Chicago Nature. Read previous posts here.
It was a habitat restoration work day just a year ago that started Refugio Mariscal on a path to a career in conservation and a position with Audubon Great Lakes.
"It was just by chance," says Refugio, who was working as an educator at the time. "I'd been a volunteer for Lake County Forest Preserves for a number of years. I was invited to go to the next Lake County Audubon Society meeting. Before that, I had no affiliation."
Now Refugio, who has a degree in geography, has the role of mapping and tracking some of our most sensitive marsh birds including species like the Black Tern, Common Gallinule and King Rail to name a few. He receives data from monitoring efforts across the Great Lakes, ranging from Minnesota to New York. The data help scientists understand how species and breeding locales are faring. Refugio credits his colleagues Stephanie Beilke (Conservation Science Manager) and Carina Ruiz (Community Engagement Manager) as important mentors in the past year.
"Hopefully our work in restoring areas has helped," the Round Lake Park resident says. "That's our goal, the reason for monitoring. To make sure that what we are doing is actually working, and learning what we can do to improve.”
The importance of the work extends to nearby communities and beyond habitat preservation and wildlife management.
“Our goal isn’t to only restore these areas for birds, but also for the benefit of the surrounding communities,” Refugio says. “Those benefits can include flood mitigation, cleaner water and a safe and welcoming place for recreation.”