Tiffany Kersten ’10

Tiffany Kersten first became hooked on birds at age twelve, after witnessing a flock of thousands of dancing sandhill cranes in a Wisconsin cornfield. She currently is the manager at the McAllen Nature Center in Texas and spending most of her free time fighting the proposed border wall. The current proposed border wall map cuts Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge—the largest contiguous tract of native habitat along the river in the entire region—off from any visitor access.

Hometown: Kaukauna, Wisconsin
Majors: natural resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Ecology, minors in biology and psychology
Experience/Internships: LoonWatch assistant; Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center Student Employee
Jobs she’s held since Northland: birding education supervisor, visitor services specialist, interpretive naturalist, coastal waterbird monitor & educator, avian field technician, waterfowl surveyor
Current Career: Manager at the McAllen Nature Center & Town Lake at Firemen’s Park in McAllen, Texas

Her Story

When I heard there was a college five hours away that was entirely environmentally focused, I knew I had to go. Northland ended up being the only school I toured and the only school I applied to. I was so in love! My most memorable experience from my time at Northland was the intimate connection myself, other students, and the professors always had with the outdoors. Students and teachers would always be found spending time outside. I spent many, many hours sitting beneath a tree on the mall, reading and studying for classes.

My career has taken me to many places over the last seven years. First to Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey, then off to band honeycreepers in Hawaii, and on to monitor shorebirds in Massachusetts. A second time in New Jersey for a position with US Fish & Wildlife Service, including a short detail at Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve in Texas. Finally, I wound up back in Texas, tasked with revitalizing the McAllen Nature Center, which had been closed for seven years, and reopened shortly before my arrival. We’ve gone from 900 annual visitors to 20,000 annual visitors over the last two years!

Last winter, I was appointed to the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor board, the non-profit support group for Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. With the recent political events, much of my free time is now being spent on border wall resistance— the current proposed border wall map completely cuts Santa Ana—the largest contiguous tract of native habitat along the river in the entire region – off from any visitor access. In August, we organized and held a protest hike. I and 682 other nature lovers walked the refuge together, then built a Wall of Humanity in the very spot the eighteen-foot concrete and steel wall is slated to be built.

In October, I traveled to Washington DC with two other board members of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, as well as the president of the American Birding Association. We spent three full days in meetings of house and senate offices, discussing the negative impacts that additional border walls would have on the environment and ecotourism economy. (Photo attached) While there, we also hand distributed informational packets to all 528 house and senate offices. The response we received was very positive. Nearly all of the offices we spoke with (both democratic and republican) opposed any form of a physical wall.

Last week we held outreach events at the Texas Butterfly Festival and at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival—two huge ecotourism draws. Festival attendees filled out over 850 Save Santa Ana postcards, which are currently en route to senate offices in DC. Our local Resist the Wall coalition continues to meet weekly. Congress will likely be voting on wall funding within the next few weeks.

Read more about the border issue:

Border wall plans divide South Texas authorities, community

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