Preserving Our Natural State Since 1977

The Delaware Audubon Conservation Award
2002 - Ann Rydgren

PLEASE NOTE: This is an archive article from 2002. It was accurate at the time it was written, but may now be out of date.

Image:  Ann RydgrenAnn McRoberts Rydgren received the 2002 Delaware Audubon Conservation Award at the Delaware Audubon Society's Annual Dinner April 29 at the Delcastle Inn in Wilmington.

Ann started her association with Audubon forty years ago, and has been one of Delaware Audubon's most consistently active members. She is editor of our newsletter, the Delaware Audubon Journal, which received a National Audubon award in her second year as editor and an award this year in the Delaware Press Association's Statewide Communications Contest.

She also is serving as Chair for Delaware's Important Bird Area Program (IBA). Her efforts have gained IBA designation for White Clay Creek State Park and Preserve, Pea Patch Island, the Great Cypress Swamp, and the entire Coastal Zone of Delaware -- areas totaling over 300,000 acres.

Often referred to as "the frequent president" of Delaware Audubon, Ann served as president from 1986-1990 and again from 1992-1994. During her first term as president, Ann signed the court papers to begin a suit against Texaco (later Motiva). "That was probably the scariest thing I ever had to do as president.", Ann recalls.

Former Delaware Governor Russell W. Peterson, Honorary Chairman of the Board of Delaware Audubon, says: "Ann Rydgren has for many years in a number of organizations been a stalwart fighter for the environment. Her dedicated, committed, persistent and generous service to the Delaware Audubon Society is especially noteworthy. She clearly deserves our Conservation Achievement Award for 2002."

Ann has served on boards and committees for other organizations such as the Coalition for Natural Stream Valleys, the White Clay Creek Watershed Study for Wild and Scenic River Status, the Brandywine & Christina River Task Force, the Coalition for Open Space, the Pea Patch Island Special Area Management Plan, and the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge Advisory Committee. She is co-chair of the Pea Patch Island Special Area Implementation Team.

She became an active advocate when she served as co-coordinator of Field Studies for Delaware Nature Society, formerly Delaware Nature Education Society. She developed some challenging hands-on education strategies. Children could discover a miniature world right before their eyes when Ann would lay a hula hoop on an ordinary looking piece of earth and guide their investigation of the microhabitats inside the hoop.

As Education chair for Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, she learned how to handle birds for education. Her favorite was a female merlin that had a sense of humor. She would sit very nicely on hand until a group was present. Then she would do her "business" in front of everyone. The group would then go into gales of laughter completely disrupting the flow of the program.

Ann does bird banding and dolphin searching as part of Earthwatch research projects and has participated in 24 of these projects from the rain forest of Hawaii to the Bahamas and Canada.

Ann has initiated and led many chapter efforts, including:

  • An Adopt-A-Wetland site at Grass Dale, where she has led surveys for the past five years, producing exhaustive reports of the changes in flora and fauna there.
  • The Birdathon, which under her aegis has become a reliable and significant source of funds.
  • Managing the distribution of Audubon's Nest Box Project giving out over 100 nest boxes for Bluebirds, Prothonotary Warblers, Kestrels, owls and Ospreys.
  • Commissioning the musical composition, the "Piping Plover Suite," as a tool for teachers to use in helping students understand the threatened and endangered Piping Plover.
  • Supporting the first horseshoe crab legislation in Delaware by writing newsletter articles and representing Audubon at hearings and workshops.
  • Serving as chair of standing committees for education and membership and Audubon's two Adopt-A-Highway locations.

"I have an overwhelming curiosity about the natural world. I always wanted to share my enthusiasm and have others feel the exhilaration I do at all the natural wonders. A long succession of people have been generous and patient in teaching me and allowing me to explore. Among them have been Mike Riska and some of the super guides at Delaware Nature Society, such as Nancy Frederick and Peg Plank. Then there is Grace-Pierce Beck who taught me about steadfastness. Dorothy Miller has never given up trying to teach me bird songs. Peggy Jahn always has answers to my confusing questions," says Ann.

Ann and her husband, Don, live in Hockessin. They have three sons and five grandchildren. "I think I have an obligation to my five grandchildren and future generations to keep the earth's natural systems in good working condition," says Ann. "Instead of capturing and trying to control nature I would like us to learn to borrow nature. Capture a lightening bug, wonder at it and let it go on its way."

Til Purnell, Delaware Audubon Conservation Award recipient in 1989 says, "If ever anyone deserved this award, it is Ann. For years, she has been 'Audubon' in Delaware and has cheerfully done (at least to all outward appearances) every job that came her way -- dirty or otherwise."

Previous recipients of the Conservation Award are: Peggy Jahn, Lynne Frink, Gwynne Smith, Rick West, Jacob Kreshtool, Til Purnell, Don Sharpe, Barbara Lundberg, Leah Roedel, Ruth Ann Minner, Joseph Biden Jr., Winston Wayne, Russell Peterson, Grace Pierce-Beck, Dorothy Miller, Edward Cooch Jr., Lynn W. Williams and Thomas B. Sharp.