Donal O'Brien Jr.  Sanctuary and Audubon Center

Meet the 2020 Pine Island Interns

Audubon interns work remotely to protect birds and grow coastal resilience program.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Audubon North Carolina’s new interns from working to protect birds and the places they need at Audubon’s Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Sanctuary at Pine Island.  

The internships have gone (mostly) virtual this summer. Deja Perkins is working as Pine Island’s Coastal Resilience Intern, helping the sanctuary communicate its mission and grow research partnerships. As Pine Island’s Communications Intern, Anatole Shukla is helping us tell the story of Pine Island, from the sanctuary's marsh restoration work to the birds and other wildlife that call it home.  

They are part of a new internship program at Pine Island, made possible by a grant from National Audubon Society Board Chair Maggie Walker. The program will help build our coastal resilience program and spur innovations at the sanctuary that can serve as a model for Audubon Centers across the network. Walker’s investment is helping Audubon centers around the country develop programs to get young people involved in conservation, community engagement, and leadership. 

Pine Island interns Deja Perkins and Anatole Shukla.
Pine Island interns Deja Perkins and Anatole Shukla are working (mostly) from a distance this summer to help Pine Island. Photo: Anatole Shukla/Audubon


Deja is a graduate student at North Carolina State University seeking an M.S. in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She is originally from Chicago. Her research focuses on urban bird ecology, specifically on “how management practices across ethnic and economic gradients affect health, movement, behavior and distribution of birds within cities.”  

Before her work with Audubon, Deja was a co-organizer of the inaugural #BlackBirdersWeek, a week of virtual events in June which centered on elevating the voices of Black birders and showing the birding community just how much work we have before us to build a truly inclusive outdoors. 

Do you have a specific memory or occasion that sparked your enthusiasm for birds and the outdoors? 

I’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember. My passion for horses and dolphins turned into a passion for wanting to explore the outdoors. Being able to ride a horse or swim where dolphins live always seemed freeing. It wasn’t until I got to undergrad that I really had the opportunity to explore the outdoors and learn about the wild things that live there. Knowing we share the planet with so many amazing creatures is really fascinating and exciting. 

What will you be doing this summer for Audubon North Carolina?  

This summer I am the Coastal Resilience Intern at Audubon. I am helping to create a research partner engagement strategy, compiling information on priority bird species at Pine Island Sanctuary to support a marsh restoration project, creating virtual content to amplify Audubon’s programming at Pine Island, and supporting habitat management in the field on the North Carolina coast. 

Do you have a favorite bird (or several)? Why?  

I don’t have a favorite bird but I have two favorite orders:  Strigiformes and Falconiformes. I love owls and birds of prey. I get excited any time I see a hawk sitting on a street light or telephone pole, hear an owl calling out at dusk, or when I see an eagle soaring up above. It’s something magical and thrilling about seeing the larger birds. 

What motivates you to get involved in conservation and environmental issues 

Birds and people motivate me to get involved in conservation. People and birds often share the same spaces, and I enjoy seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they see a bird for the first time, or notice something cool about the environment. I love educating people on the nature in their neighborhoods, and finding new ways to conserve natural spaces for the future enjoyment of people and the birds that live there. 

What are you most looking forward to this summer?  

I’m really looking forward to networking with members of Audubon North Carolina and learning more about the different roles that it takes to complete Audubon’s goals.  


Anatole, who is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is currently a student at Swarthmore College studying economics and linguistics. Outside of academics, Anatole is very involved in student journalism. 

Do you have a specific memory or occasion that sparked your enthusiasm for the outdoors? 

I really became passionate about the outdoors about five years ago, when, for the first time in my life, I watched a bumblebee pollinate a flower. That moment made me realize how special the natural world is, and since then I’ve loved going outdoors and observing both insects and birds. 

What will you be doing this summer for Audubon North Carolina? 

This summer I’m serving as Pine Island’s communications intern! In that capacity, I plan to write blog posts, as well as helping to develop Pine Island’s website and social media presence. 

Do you have a favorite bird (or several)? Why? 

There are too many favorite birds to choose from. If I had to pick two, I would probably choose Great Egrets because they always look so calm and collected, and Northern Saw-whet Owls because they’re the complete package – cute, small, and deadly. I once got to band a (very perturbed) Northern Saw-whet Owl in her first year, and it was a transformative experience in my birding journey. 

What motivates you to get involved in conservation and environmental issues? 

Climate change is the largest threat that the world faces in the 21st century, and it’s imperative to me to help give a voice to birds and other creatures who cannot speak on their own. The importance and urgency of protecting wildlife and vulnerable populations from climate change is unquantifiable. 

What are you most looking forward to this summer? 

I am looking forward to spending time outside and getting to know the native species in my hometown! I live a couple of miles away from a marsh that was reclaimed from farmland, and it has been a delight to see all the native birds wading around and enjoying their natural habitats. 

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