The YWCA’s 22nd Annual Milestones: A Tribute to Women, honored two local women — Black Swamp Bird Observatory Executive Director Kimberly Kaufman and Oregon Police Detective Janet Zale and.
The Milestones event was held March 30 at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo. Kaufman is this year’s Milestones award recipient in the Sciences Category.
Her contributions in her role as executive director at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, located on State Route 2 just outside Oak Harbor, have had a substantial impact on the Northwest Ohio community.
The BSBO and Kaufman work to promote the appreciation and conservation of birds and their habitats through research, education, and outreach.
Kaufman organizes and promotes a ten-day birding festival held each May at Magee Marsh and other parks and conservation lands along the Lake Erie shoreline in Lucas and Ottawa counties. This event is billed as “The Biggest Week in American Birding” and is estimated to have brought in $40 million to the Northwest Ohio region due to the 90,000 visitors arriving from across the world each spring.
This year’s festival is May 5-14 and is headquartered at Maumee Bay State Park Conference Center and Lodge. In the festival’s Visitors’ Guide, produced each year by the BSBO, The Press, and the Port Clinton Beacon, Kaufman writes a welcome to the tens of thousands arriving here.
“If you’re visiting here for the first time, you’ll soon discover that while the birding is indeed first-class, it is the wonderful people who live and work here that make it a truly superb destination,” Kaufman wrote in this year’s guide.
In the guide, she declares that Northwest Ohio has become “The Warbler Capital of the World.”
“This area welcomes birders with open arms,” Kaufman wrote. “You’ll see ‘Welcome Birders!’ messages gracing marquees, banners on light posts through the main thoroughfares, and birding specials of all kinds.”
Commitment to women, youth
Milestones presenters say Kaufman has displayed a commitment to the advancement of women by serving as a mentor for Ohio Young Birders Club, a program for young people who are interested in birds and nature. The participants’ involvement in this club has led many young women to pursue science-based degrees and careers.
One Milestones presenter said Kaufman, “…is dedicated to empowering everyone through science to see nature and the environment as a place to find peace, freedom and dignity.”
Kaufman has won several area awards: the 2015 Outdoor Writers of Ohio Bruce Dawson Award, 2015 Reader’s Choice Award for Best Birding in USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Travel Awards, and a proclamation from the City of Oregon in 2013 commending the Black Swamp Bird Observatory for bringing economic development to the area.
Other accolades to her credit include the Chandler Robbins Award, given by the American Birding Association to an individual who has made significant contributions to education and bird conservation; the Toledo Naturalists’ Society Naturalist of the Year award, and being named the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Volunteer of the Year.
Kaufman is an Ohio native whose lifelong love of the outdoors grew into a passion for birds in the 1990s. Kimberly’s involvement with BSBO began in the research field where she banded many thousands of birds in the Observatory’s Navarre Marsh banding station. She became the education director in 2005 and executive director in 2009, a position she still holds.
As the education director, Kaufman played a key role in building BSBO’s school programs, as well as the highly successful Ohio Young Birders Club, a group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth programs in 16 other states.
She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms magazine and coauthor of the Kaufman Field Guides to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest.
Kaufman is the chair of the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative and a board member of the American Bird Conservancy. Kimberly and her husband Kenn make their home in Oak Harbor.