Audubon Ambassadors: Audubon North Carolina’s Climate Initiative

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Wood Thrush photo by Will Stuart

Scientists at National Audubon recently released Birds & Climate Change, a study showing the impacts of climate change on the ranges of 588 North American species. It showed that more than half of these species would be severely threatened by 2080.

Rather than just publish the report and continue to research, National Audubon felt they had to act – to respond urgently, just as they had in fighting the plume trade and in protecting birds from DDT.

The reason for the urgency is simple: if you have pre-teen children, nieces, nephews or friends, by the time they are in their 70s, the Wood Thrush will be gone from the North Carolina Piedmont. When these children are eventually settling down to retirement, they won’t hear the thrush’s flute-song echoing in the morning woods. Maybe it will still be heard in a warmer Quebec, but not here in a hotter Piedmont.

According to Audubon’s climate models, the Wood Thrush is projected to lose 82 percent of its current summer range by 2080. Audubon’s climate models predict that areas in what is now the boreal forest will become climate-favorable in terms of temperature ranges where the Wood Thrush can live, but these areas won’t have the mature interior forest needed to thrive.

So National Audubon turned to Audubon North Carolina to develop a pilot program that could be replicated across the country. North Carolina was chosen not only because of our diverse population, diverse habitats, and our significant number of species at risk, but also because of our significant number of climate strongholds: locations like the high Appalachians where, with our efforts, birds could hang on.

Audubon North Carolina quickly developed an initiative called Audubon Ambassadors, and kicked it off in September 2015. The initiative is rooted in the belief that the emotional connection people have with birds will spur action, where the abstract science has failed. When you are trained to be an Audubon Ambassador you will discover a whole new set of tools you can use to share your passion.

Ambassadors need to be like scores of Wood Thrush returning in the spring, their songs waking others from their slumbers, giving hope that this landing will not be their last.

The T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Chapter has joined this effort, and its current work – Bird Friendly Communities, Brown-headed Nuthatch boxes, Audubon Natural Area restoration, etc. – line up perfectly with the initiative.

However, for the Chapter (and for North Carolina Audubon and National Audubon) to be successful, we need many Audubon Ambassadors to spread the message.

For more information on the Ambassador program, and how your efforts can make a difference, go to: http://climate.nc.audubon.org/ambassadors