Meet Brian Trusty, executive director of Audubon Texas; the oldest citizen conservation organization in the Lone Star State. As a fifth generation Texan, Trusty feels an obligation to protect the natural resources and beauty of this great state; but admits he fell into his leadership duties with Audubon in an unexpected way. Trusty never intended to pursue not-for-profit work, it just happened.
We wanted to know more about what drives Trusty to oversee this large and diverse organization and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself, Audubon Texas and the communities it serves across the state.
Dawn Tongish: Can You begin by telling us about Audubon Texas?
Brian Trusty: Audubon is a the oldest citizen conservation organization in the Lone Star State. In 1899, the first Audubon chapter was created in Galveston leading to over a century of conservation legacy in Texas. Today, there are 20 official Audubon chapters in Texas comprised of over 18,000 members, three state-of-the-art Audubon nature centers, 16 globally significant and recognized Important Bird Areas, and multiple Audubon sanctuaries throughout the state. Audubon is a science-based conservation organization with three primary areas of scientific focus: coastal conservation, prairie and grassland conservation, and urban conservation. Additionally, we provide community education and engagement through our Audubon centers that serve over 75,000 visitors each year.
DT: What are your duties at Audubon Texas?
BT: As Executive Director my responsibilities are to oversee and manage the assets, programs and personnel of Audubon Texas, the state office of the National Audubon Society. This includes three Audubon centers, three coastal island sanctuaries that in total are comprised of 178 barrier islands from Louisiana to Mexico that are critical nesting and breeding habitants for migrating birds, and an internationally renowned sanctuary along the Texas-Mexico border. I am responsible for leading the Audubon Texas team in our three conservation science areas (coastal, prairie and grassland, and urban), Audubon chapter coordination and support, policy advocacy in Texas, and in participating in hemispheric conservation initiatives spanning the Central Flyway. I am also a Vice President of National Audubon Society and am expected to participate in, lead, and represent Texas in national priorities and initiatives.
DT: How did you become involved with Audubon Texas, and why are you so passionate about the work being done there?
BT: I am thankful to have a rich and diverse history in natural resource management, nature center and park management, and in leading outdoor education experiences. As a fifth-generation Texan, it is important to me to preserve the quality of our native landscapes and wildlife that are a significant part of our Texas identity. When my career led me to the opportunity to work with a conservation leader like Audubon, I did not hesitate. Great conservation should be approached as a mosaic – an intricate tapestry spun with many threads. Audubon does this incredibly well through a science-based approach to on-the-ground resource management and restoration, high quality community education facilities and programs, and pragmatic and thoughtful strategies in policy advocacy and public engagement.
DT: Why do you work in the non profit sector?
BT: I did not purposefully seek out the nonprofit sector, but have arrived in a position at an organization that is a nonprofit. I find it both fulfilling and challenging. I enjoy the opportunity to work in a field where it feels like we’re engaged in a noble cause with meaningful purpose.
DT: It can be difficult for any non profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
BT: Tenacity and innovation. Audubon Texas is working to create the appropriate balance of fund-raising revenues and earned revenues; of entrepreneurialism that respects our organizational mission and our conservation values; and a strong cultural dedication to the rigors of success.
DT: How can the people of Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
BT: My fellow Texans can help by being aware, understanding the issues, and being personally committed to conservation in our great state. Audubon is a great organization to be a part of and to support, but ultimately we are seeking personal conservation action and involvement. We are working hard to become more relevant with our messages, engagement strategies, and as an organization on the whole to better serve Texans in this great cause. We are hopeful that Texans will take interest, support our efforts, and be a part of a community that is committed to a bright future for generations to come.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Audubon Texas?
BT: Seeing the glimmer of understanding in a young person’s eyes as they are learning about how incredibly sophisticated our natural world is, how connected our own quality of life and actions are to it, and how they can make a difference. I am blessed to see it almost every day.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
BT: Make coffee.