With a background in political science (including a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley) and expertise in birding (co-author of Birds of the Lahontan Valley and The Nevada Breeding Bird Atlas), Graham Chisholm is superbly qualified to serve as executive director of Audubon California, the national organization’s largest statewide program.
Before becoming executive director in 2009, Chisholm served for four years as Audubon California’s deputy state director and director of conservation. Before that he was executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s California Program, where he helped secure passage of over $5 billion in conservation funding measures. Before joining TNC as Nevada State Director, Chisholm served as natural resources aide to U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey (Nebraska). He currently lives in Berkeley with his wife and two kids. He’s also joining the board of the Land Trust Alliance, and he serves as board chair of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.
BN: How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
GC: This time around, I have been here nine years. I came over from Nevada, and after having lived in the desert for four years, I was happy to return. The diversity here is stunning, and there are so many amazing people working to protect and restore the Bay Area. Ever since moving to Berkeley, I have been exploring Tilden Regional Park, and I go up Claremont Canyon almost every day. What foresight people had to create such a huge network of regional parks!
BN: Do you have a favorite Bay Area park?
GC: I love Point Reyes National Seashore because it’s such a wild place, yet there’s still room for agriculture. I like that people got together and fought to protect it from development. And finally, there aren’t many places where you can visit a great bakery right before you go birding.
BN: What unusual birds have you spotted locally?
GC: I once came eyeball-to-eyeball with a yellow rail, which is one of the hardest birds to spot in North America, at Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh. The poor thing was under the boardwalk, waiting out a storm.
BN: What do you like most about living in the Bay Area?
GC: The Bay Area is made up of a great collection of people — naturalists, teachers, artists and writers — who celebrate the natural world of the Bay Area and help inspire us to make sure it is there for the next generation. Here, we have access to so many parks and wild lands, and a strong will to protect them.
BN: What can we do to help ensure the ongoing protection of wild places?
GC: In our efforts to protect places, we need to remember to make sure people also love them, and the best way for that to happen is to get kids out into nature and having fun, to guarantee that kids have a chance to get out, get their hands dirty, and scrape their knees. So it’s imperative that we vote to support Proposition 21 this November to ensure long-term funding for California’s State Parks, the places our kids can go to have these magical experiences.
Visit Audubon California to learn more.