Donal C. O'Brien, Jr. Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Corolla

New Habitat Coordinator Takes Flight at Pine Island

Meet the newest member of our team who is doing everything from implementing marsh restoration projects to tracking box turtles and counting secretive marsh birds.

The birds of Pine Island are all aflutter with the arrival of Sara Marschhauser, who is joining Audubon North Carolina as our Senior Coordinator of Habitats and Facilities. Along with managing ongoing operational projects, Sara will be helping to implement marsh restoration projects to protect and rebuild Currituck Sound marshes, contribute data to a statewide initiative to mark and track box turtles, and survey for secretive marsh birds, among many other tasks.  

Pine Island is home to 2,600 acres, including globally rare habitat, supporting hundreds of species of migratory and resident birds year-round. We’re excited to have Sara join our team and help move our conservation of this important sanctuary forward.  

Read on to learn more about Sara... 

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

I have memories of being about 4 or 5 years old, watching my grandparents fill and clean their bird baths. They would set up chairs in the backyard and watch the birds and all I can remember thinking was “how boring!” Little did I know what would become of me. I had always loved nature and animals, but my interest in wildlife peaked with an animal behavior class at UNC-Wilmington, when I learned about bird behavior. Their adaptations, intelligence (they use tools…what?!), and courtship/reproductive behaviors were amazing to me. Then, in graduate school at North Carolina State University, I enrolled in an ornithology class and was instantly hooked. I’ve been a self-proclaimed bird nerd ever since. 

Describe your work with Audubon at Pine Island. 

I am the Senior Coordinator of Habitats and Facilities. I’m working closely with the Center Director and Educator, Robbie and Pamela Fearn, on all things. I will help manage everything from the 1913 hunt lodge and hunt program to coordinating master plan projects to land management to BioBlitzes to research projects with local colleges and universities, and the list goes on! It’s a great mix of operations management and natural resources conservation.

Sara holding a turtle in a wooded area
Sara holding a turtle. Photo: Sara Marschhauser/Audubon

What’s your favorite bird?  

I have to choose one?! The Summer Tanger is the first to come to my mind. I had no idea the bird existed when I first saw it, but knew it was different than a cardinal. I saw it in the first park I worked in and it felt like a familiar friend in the woods throughout the summer. It’s one of the chirps that I can pick-up no matter where I am or what I’m doing – I know when the summer tanager is back in town. 

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

I’ve been raised from day 1 to be a steward of this earth and understand that we are part of the ecosystem, not above it. Growing up in Apex, NC I have seen the incredible amount of population growth and development in what used to be a suburban area. As depressive as it can be, I still have to find the hope where I can, and I believe that is why I’m so passionate about the field of conservation. It’s so important to engage the public in protecting habitats so that they have a better understanding and appreciation of how important our wild species are for the future of our earth and for our health! 

What’s your favorite part about your job?  

Working and living at Pine Island Sanctuary! I have been fortunate to work in some beautiful parks in urban areas, but this is my first “remote” location. I’m also excited to see all sorts of new wildlife that I wouldn’t typically come across in Raleigh. I’ve already met my first prairie warbler and eastern glass lizard! 

And Robbie and Pam Fearn have been the best neighbors and colleagues!

Sara and her dog River at the beach
Sara and her dog River. Photo: Sara Marschhauser/Audubon

Anything else you want folks to know? 

I’m a huge proponent of emotional and mental wellness and am excited to work for an organization that also values that. Did I mention I love animals? I have a pit-mix named River, 3 cats: Zirk, Remy and Lita, and a snake named Iso. This is a huge change for me, but one that I’m so excited about. As mentioned, I’ve lived in Raleigh for the majority of my life. I’ve never moved to a place where I know no one except the people I work with and I’m looking forward to getting to know this unique community. 

How you can help, right now