Whooping Crane Outreach Program Assistants help create communities that care about cranes

The International Crane Foundation has been working in Alabama for three years and began a new outreach campaign in Indiana this year. This work requires our staff to venture far from our headquarters in Baraboo into rural communities, where local people are unfamiliar with us. It takes a certain type of person to move to Linton, Indiana, or Decatur, Alabama, and dive head-first into community outreach.

Both James Kawlewski in Indiana and Amber Wilson in Alabama found amazing networks of people who care about cranes and want to support us. Between the two programs, we had 6,998 interactions at 130 outreach events, not including outreach through traditional and social media. We are so proud of both of them.

Below, James and Amber to tell us about their experiences.

James Kawleski, Whooping Crane outreach program assistant, teaching students in Bloomfield, Indiana, about Whooping Crane adaptations.

James Kawlewski, Whooping Crane outreach program assistant in Indiana

Moving to rural Indiana all the way from Minnesota had its challenges. Imagine moving to a new area with no friends or family, where your only connections are the people who work with your organization. Luckily, those people are very nice!

My work in Indiana began on Nov. 1, with a Whooping Crane survey to help me understand the Goose Pond property and the work that our volunteers do in Indiana. For the first two months, I searched for programming opportunities, attending meetings to maintain partnerships, and I presented programs to the public. At first, it was challenging to establish myself, since this was a new program for Indiana. The next couple of months were different.

After a press release appeared in five newspapers around Indiana, outreach opportunities exploded. February was the best month. I almost doubled the number of people I reached in my first two months. Altogether, I reached more than  3,000 children and adults.

My favorite part of working in Indiana was traveling around the state and meeting new people. This was a valuable experience for me, and I think the program will build upon my success into the future.

Amber Wilson, Whooping Crane outreach program assistant, shares a laugh with Mary Ratliff, president of the Wheeler Refuge Association, and Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Amber Wilson, Whooping Crane outreach program assistant in Alabama

Note: This was Amber’s second time working for the International Crane Foundation! She started with us as an intern in 2016-17, and she came back to work as a limited term staff person on our program in Alabama.

When I graduated from college, I was worried about my future because I didn’t have any direction. I started applying for jobs outside of the state of Georgia, and I was accepted as an intern at the International Crane Foundation in the summer of 2015. Moving to Wisconsin was one of the scariest decisions I had ever made because I was more than 1,000 miles away from anyone I knew.

However, I quickly learned that it was the best choice I could have made. Meeting the staff and other interns at the Wisconsin headquarters made me feel at home. I learned more about cranes than I ever wanted to know, and learned more about interpretation and education. I felt so inspired and impassioned by everyone who worked there that I decided interpretation and environmental education was my calling.

After my internship in Wisconsin, in the winter of 2016, I accepted the Whooping Crane Outreach Intern position in Alabama. I presented Whooping Crane programs I had developed to students all over north Alabama. In the spring of 2016, I left the foundation to travel around the country doing outdoor education positions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Houston Independent School District. In  October 2017, I applied for and accepted the position as the Alabama Whooping Crane outreach program assistant. I was thrilled to be back in Alabama working for an organization that has encouraged me in so many ways. I was so overjoyed that I was able to work for the International Crane Foundation again, spreading the word about Whooping Cranes all over Alabama. I can’t wait to see how Whooping Crane outreach in Alabama grows even more next year!

Thank you, James and Amber, for your commitment to crane conservation, and for helping us build communities that give a WHOOP about Whooping Cranes!

Lizzie CondonStory submitted by Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane outreach coordinator, and James Kawlewski and Amber Wilson, Whooping Crane outreach program assistants