Bent of the River Audubon Center

Allison Middlemass Soars from Crew Leader to Community Coordinator

“When that position ended for the season. I was like, […] I’ve gotta keep going with this.”

When Allison Middlemass first applied for a job with Audubon Connecticut and New York in 2021, it felt like a shot in the dark. Despite a childhood filled with camping, hiking, fishing, and plenty of time spent at the zoo where her aunt worked, Allison knew very little about identifying the birds of Connecticut’s coastlines. Thankfully, her creativity and teaching skills made it clear she was a great fit. That summer she started as a WildLife Guards Crew Leader in Bridgeport, CT, where she’s been a lifelong resident.

As a WildLife Guards Crew Leader, Allison led a group of eight high school students from Bridgeport, CT, as they monitored shorebirds and educated beachgoers on how to share the shore with nesting birds. “That first summer with the WildLife Guards program really brought back up a lot of stuff I've always been passionate about with wildlife conservation, and also education.”

“When that position ended for the season. I was like, […] I’ve gotta keep going with this.” And she did—along with returning to the position the following two summers, she jumped on the opportunity to spend her spring with Audubon as a Salt Marsh Steward Crew Leader in 2022. 

Those days working with students out in the marsh were life-changing for Allison. Despite coming home each day covered in sand and mud and plant matter—she recounts a particularly windy day where taking off her glasses revealed a reverse-raccoon-eye situation that sent her and her crew members into fits of laughter—she went to bed each night excited to find out what the next day of work would hold. 

Whether it involved planting literally thousands of native plants as part of a marsh restoration project, managing volunteers, or taking students out on field trips, each day she went home feeling fulfilled.

“I was just like, I’m going to stick with this as long as I can keep working with Audubon Connecticut and New York,” Allison says. A new position opening at the Bent of the River Audubon Center turned this goal into a reality. 

A digital painting of a river at the Bent of the River Audubon Center, at dusk.
A digital painting of the Bent of the River Audubon Center. Photo: Allison Middlemass

This past fall, Allison joined the Bent of the River Audubon Center team as the Senior Coordinator of Community Conservation Programs. Her experience with leadership, education, and outreach, along with her fine arts degree, will help her connect communities across Connecticut with the Bent’s essential conservation work.

“Anybody can be a birder,” she says. “Anybody can become interested in nature and the environment from observation. What really excites me is trying to get a new audience involved in this, and to build people’s passion for birds.”

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