Fully Fledged: Audubon Vermont Alumni Highlight with Chaveli Miles

The first installment of a new, seasonal series that will spotlight Audubon Vermont alumni. This time our Youth Conservation Leadership Coordinator chats with past policy intern, Chaveli Miles.

Audubon Vermont has a robust network of individuals that make up our alumni. We offer several avenues for young or early career  professionals to get a feel for working in the environmental nonprofit sector with positions in environmental education, conservation, and policy. These positions are designed to give participants hands-on experience in the field through projects and experiences, from writing press briefs on environmental policy to climbing mountains to monitor Peregrine Falcon nesting sites. 

In an effort to highlight the hard-working, talented individuals that pass through our Youth Conservation Leadership Program as interns, fellows, junior conservation technicians, summer camp staff, counselors-in-training, and AmeriCorps members, we are starting a news series called Fully Fledged. Fully Fledged will cover where our alumni are today and how their time at Audubon helped prepare them for their next career and education steps. 

Drum roll for our first highlighted alumna....Chaveli Miles! Chaveli was a Environmental Policy Intern in Fall 2019 right after graduating from Colgate University with a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies. Since leaving Audubon, Chaveli has worked as a Geograpic Information System (GIS) Professional with the state, first as an intern aiding the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets by developing web-based mapping applications using ESRI desktop software and ArcGIS Online for internal and external use, and then she was hired full-time at The Vermont Center for Geographic Information in 2021. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't start this interview with a softball question for anyone connected to Audubon: What is your favorite bird? 

Red-winged Blackbirds. I grew up in Shelburne and have great memories of walking around Shelburne Farms in springtime and hearing their calls. 

Where are you from? If you’re not from Vermont, what brought you here?

I grew up in Shelburne, Vermont and moved to attend Colgate University in central New York. After college, I decided to move back home and see what options I had. 

Tell me a little about your current position and work. 

I work for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI), which is part of the Vermont Agency of Digital Services. I work mostly with municipal land parcel data which we work closely with Vermont municipalities to maintain in a standard GIS format for the entire state. More generally, I work with boundary-related data such as town boundaries and census data. All the data maintained by VCGI (as well as data maintained by several other government agencies and departments) is freely available through the Vermont Open Geodata Portal.

During your time as an Audubon Vermont intern, what kinds of projects did you work on? 

I worked closely with Audubon Vermont's former executive director, David Mears, to learn and write about sustainable, active forest management practices that conserve native bird populations by highlighting opportunities for Vermont to build on existing laws in order to encourage private landowners to both protect and actively manage their forested land. Relatedly, we also focused on Act 250, Vermont's land use and development law that helps regulate certain types of development and subdivision in the state. 

What skills did you build at Audubon and have any been useful in your current line of work? 

My writing skills improved greatly! I had to figure out how to write about topics that were very new to me while taking on a persuasive angle. I also trended pretty shy in college, so Audubon was my first introduction to public speaking in a non-academic setting. Now I use my public speaking skills to give presentations all the time in my current position - Audubon was my first step to trusting and feeling confident in my ability to present.

How was the transition from internship to career? 

I had a pretty seamless transition after my internship with Audubon. My policy internship was my first work experience out of school and it was great to learn how work can be conducted in a collaborative environment. It was great to help research and work on projects that had started long before me and would continue after me - I was just a piece of the work happening. 

What is your favorite memory of working at Audubon? 

I have two! One was the press release for National Audubon Society's Survival By Degrees report at the University of Vermont. I got to talk to students about the report and my experience as an intern with Audubon. It felt like a full circle moment because my mom attended UVM in the seventies. My second favorite memory is visiting the bird-banding station and getting to hold a Ruby-crowned Kinglet - it felt so small and delicate in my hands. 

Lastly, what advice do you have for folks who are currently in the Youth Conservation Leadership Program or will be in the future?

Ask questions! When I first started I was nervous to ask questions in fear of not looking knowledgable. There is no shame in asking - ask them early and often! 

Thanks to Chaveli for taking the time to chat with me! Scroll down below for more resources on our Youth Conservation Leadership Program and internships. 


Youth Conservation Leadership Program Guide

Youth Conservation Leadership Program Guide

Learn about our unique programs that offer paid, work-based and service-learning opportunities for youth 14-25.

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Environmental Policy Intern Alumni
Youth Conservation Leadership Program

Environmental Policy Intern Alumni

The application of law, science, and policy for the protection of birds and the places they need to thrive.

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Job Opportunities

Audubon offers various opportunities related to conservation, education and policy.

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