February Meeting - Coastkeeper to describe threats to Georgia’s largest river basin

An ornithologist who’s served as the Altamaha Riverkeeper’s “Coastkeeper” since last spring will describe her work in one of the largest river basins on the Atlantic seaboard and give a status update on American Oystercatchers in the Altamaha delta at the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society’s next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, at Sandy Creek Nature Center.

Jen Hilburn has lived and conducted ornithological work on the Georgia coast for 13 years. Last March, Hilburn was named Coastkeeper for Altamaha Riverkeeper, a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Georgia’s biggest river and its tributaries – which include the North and Middle Oconee Rivers in Athens. The Riverkeeper monitors pollution throughout the Altamaha watershed through a program of water sampling and analysis, and also keeps track of land-based activities that impact the river’s health.

Hilburn worked with shorebirds on St. Catherines Island before becoming Coastkeeper. She has worked as an ornithologist in Costa Rica and Cuba with parrots and on San Clemente Island with shrikes, and studied at Portland State University in Oregon and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. She has described her role as Coastkeeper as an extension of the conservation work she performed as an ornithologist: “Working in advocacy, protecting the largest watershed in Georgia from pollution, I go home satisfied and exhausted. It also is a great opportunity to get on the water to go birding.”

The meeting will be held in the Nature Center’s Education and Visitor Center, 205 Old Commerce Road off U.S. Highway 441 north of Athens. To reach the center from the Loop 10 bypass, exit at U.S. Highway 441/Commerce Road and turn north toward Commerce. Go approximately a mile, turn left at the Sandy Creek Nature Center sign and go to the end of the road. Turn left at Old Commerce Road; parking for the Education and Visitor Center will be on the right.