A little more than 20 years after graduating from Wittenberg University, Michael Burger is making a mark on the world through his environmental work with the National Audubon Society. In November, Burger became one of just 40 individuals awarded a fellowship through the innovative TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Program initiated by Audubon with financial support from Toyota.
TogetherGreen provides $10,000 stipends to some of the nation's most promising conservationists as they advance their environmental vision and conservation leadership skills. The fellowship recipients will receive assistance in launching local projects to educate communities about the environment and engage them in conservation efforts. They will also receive specialized training in conservation planning and execution.
"My goals are to help magnify Audubon's impact across the eastern states by building and institutionalizing processes that promote collaboration and more strategic, regional planning and implementation of Audubon's conservation efforts," said Burger, who serves as director of conservation and science for Audubon New York.
This project includes funding for additional projects to engage locally based efforts, meaning Burger has the opportunity to make real changes and headway for environmental conservation.
"Michael is the kind of person who can make a real difference in the health of our environment and the quality of our future," Audubon President John Flicker said in a press release announcing the fellowships.
The stage was set for Burger's recent accomplishments by an educational career that began with a bachelor's degree in biology (cum laude) from Wittenberg in 1987. He went on to receive his master's and Ph.D. in natural resources and environment from the University of Michigan. After completing his studies in 1998, Burger researched and wrote about the effectiveness of using "Important Bird Areas" as tools for conserving endangered species.
His research interests led him to the National Audubon Society, a 100-year-old organization that creates links between people and the environment through community-based centers and programs. Burger, also a 2002 recipient of the National Audubon Society ACE Award for Individual Achievement, has worked as a forest ecologist and as the director for bird conservation in the state of New York. Through various techniques, he has ensured the safety of "Important Bird Areas" throughout the east coast.
He and his wife, Liza, Wittenberg class of 1988, have two daughters, Jolan and Jenna. In addition to his personal and professional commitments, Burger also works with private landowners to help them better steward wildlife and wildlife habitats, as well as to diversify the environmental movement.
"Conservation of nature is really about people, at all levels," Burger said.
Burger's education and interest in making the world a better place led him to a career that satisfies his desire to improve the environment and provide people with a higher quality of life.
"People always tell college kids to wait until they get into the real world. I would remind them that not only are they already in it, but that the 'real' world is the natural world," Burger said.
- Written by Ronni Appenbrink '09