Classroom Presenters

James Adams (Amazon Journeys)

In 1999, a lifelong love affair with nature and wildlife led naturalist James Adams from his home in eastern Pennsylvania to the tropical rain forests of Honduras, where he has managed and served as head naturalist at 2 of Honduras’ premier birding lodges for over 18 years. James is the organizer of the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour, a leader in the bird watching community in Honduras and Central America, and an eco-tourism consultant for the Amazon Conservation Association in Peru. James devotes his life in Honduras to promoting conservation of the natural world, and his wildlife photography and stories have appeared in numerous books and magazines, and have enlightened and educated people across the globe. He has led expeditions and tours to some of the most remote parts of Central America, as well as to South America, North America and Asia. James is also co-owner of Natural Selections Tours, a birding, wildlife, and photo tour company which helps to further his mission of sharing and teaching his deep reverence for nature, with everyone.

 

Alexander Alvarado (Natural Selections Nature Tours)

Alex is a native of Copan Ruinas in the western, Mayan region of Honduras. He became interested in birds many years ago while working in tourism and eventually found work at Macaw Mountain, a Bird Park and Nature Reserve located outside of Copan. Macaw Mountain was his first experience working closely with wild and rehabilitated birds and this opened his heart to what would become his life-long passion! In 2006 he began his own investigation of Honduras’ avifauna by traveling all over the country, and after teaching himself the great diversity of Honduran species and calls, he began offering local birding itineraries among the pine forests and Mayan ruins of Copan. Over the years Alex immersed himself in guiding and tourism training courses, and was soon leading birding groups all over the country as well as other parts of Central America. His experiences with birds and birders led him to the position of past President of the Honduran Ornithological Association, owner of his own company; Honduran Birds, and co-organizer of the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour.

Alex is one of the top recommended guides by Honduras Institute of Tourism, thanks to his pursuit of excellence for his clients and his vast experience leading birding groups and individuals. He is currently co-owner of Natural Selections Nature Tours, and he leads birding groups to Guatemala, Belize Honduras, Colombia and Nicaragua.

 

Serge Arias (Costa Rica Birding)
Serge is the CEO and founder of Costa Rica Birding, founder of the Costa Rica´s Birding Hotspots Route and Birdwatching Central America, a specialized tour operator for birdwatching and sustainable tourism in middle America. He has a Master’s degree in Business Management for Tourism and is a certified professor of ecotourism, an international speaker and a consultant regarding the development of bird bases products and destinations.

 

Amar Ayyash (www.anythinglarus.com) See Field Trip and Workshop Leaders

 

Christina Baal (Drawing 10,00 Birds)

Christina Baal is a wandering bird artist whose life dream is to see and paint 10,000 species of birds. Since graduating from Bard College in 2014, she has wandered the world meeting incredible places, birds, and people. As an artist, she loves looking at birds for their colorful personalities and loves to encourage others to do so as well. Aside from her work as an artist, Christina works as an environmental educator, bird guide, and art teacher. She currently lives in Hoonah, Alaska. You can see her paintings and follow her adventures on her website, Drawing 10,000 Birds. 

 

Carlos A. Bethancourt (Canopy Family, Panama)

Carlos was born in Panama City in 1978 and raised in the rural village of Huile, next to the Canal Zone. It was here he learned lessons of nature from his mother and grandmother. Carlos received a scholarship to Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, where he studied natural resources and received his first formal training in ornithology. Carlos began at the Canopy Tower in 2000 and has since attended numerous birding conferences in the U.S. and Great Britain, where he led tours and workshops and presented programs on Panama’s birds. Carlos is a very popular and much-requested guide, a testament not only to his birding ability, but also to his sincere friendly demeanor. When not guiding, Carlos is busy at the office working on marketing and other projects for the Canopy Tower & Canopy Lodge.

 

Nicole Broquet (Marine Resources Council)

Nicole is the Environmental Education Coordinator at the Marine Resources Council. She was born and raised in Alaska but fled the cold to California for her B.S. in Biology. There she discovered her passion for sustainability and environmental education. After graduation, she moved to Texas to pursue her M.S. in Fisheries and Aquaculture. Nicole then served in the Philippines for two-years as a Coastal Resource Management Specialist for the Peace Corps. In 2019, she moved to Florida and joined the MRC team. Here, Nicole works with schools and community groups to raise awareness about the issues of the Indian River Lagoon and the MRC’s restoration efforts. Nicole also loves being outdoors and spending as much time as possible in the ocean.

 

Ken Burgener (Carefree Birding)

Ken has worked with the National Audubon Society, as well as the Florida Audubon Society in their educational department. He served over 5 years as a board member of the Broward County Audubon Society. For over fifteen years, Ken has taught beginning birding to kids through seniors. He has taken thousands of people birding in the Florida Everglades. He calls himself an “entertaining environmental educator”. Ken and his wife Linda have run over 25 groups off cruise ships. Some of our groups include: ABA, Tampa Audubon, Tropical Audubon, Columbus Audubon and other groups.

 

Wendy Clark (Bird Watcher’s Digest)
Wendy Clark is the President and Publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, having been accorded that role by Bill Thompson, III, before his passing in March 2019. Wendy has invested more than 20 years as a professional in the birding and ecotourism industries, having served as Chief Operations Officer for Lakeside Chautauqua, Director of Sales & Events at Bird Watcher’s Digest, Global Marketing and Fundraising Consultant with Birdlife International, and Global Marketing Director with Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours. Her love for birding was sparked in 2008 when she saw her first bird through a scope—a Kirtland’s warbler! Wendy has experienced the sudden loss of her mother; her partner, Bill Thompson, III; and Bill’s mom, Elsa Thompson within fourteen months in 2018 and 2019, and was the primary caregiver during Hospice care for both her mother and Bill at the end of their lives. Wendy is also a single mother of three adult children, and grandmother of two! As an avid birder, she combines her passion for birding, conservation, writing, and music to communicate the healing power of birds and nature through grief and loss.

 

Shem Compion (C4 Photo Safaris)

Shem is the founder and owner of C4 Photo Safaris. Shem’s intricate knowledge of a variety of photographic subjects is his greatest photographic asset. He uses his familiarity of travel in Africa, its wildlife and fantastic photographic locations to provide outstanding photographic tour experiences. One of South Africa’s top wildlife photographers, Shem’s work is regularly printed worldwide in magazines, calendars and books. He has published 7 books: an indication of how much he enjoys sharing the love of the photographic medium with clients.

 

Paddy Cunningham (Birding Adventures)

Paddy has been a Florida Naturalist for 35 years. Her motto is You Learn the I.D., and her passion is helping birders gain advanced skills during birding festivals and classes. She is Coordinator of the Everglades Birding Festival and new Birding Festival of the Keys. In 2008, she was 1st in Florida and 27th in the ABA area during a Big Year. For Audubon, she is CBC compiler and Field Trip Coordinator.

 

Gunnar Engblom (Kolibri Expeditions)

Gunnar is a Swedish birder/biologist who has lived in Peru since 1998, where he operates birdwatching and nature tour outfitter Kolibri Expeditions. He is popular guide, both for hard-core birding groups, as well as for groups who combine photography, nature and/or culture. He is also a keen runner and ran in the Miami Marathon last year while visiting the Space Coast Birding Festival. Gunnar also sings and writes Swedish punk/eco-rock songs with humor and ironic twists for the band Guran Guran.

 

Dave Grant (Shark Research Institute)
Dave is the Deputy Director of the Shark Research Institute, Princeton, NJ, and established Brookdale College’s Ocean Institute at Sandy Hook, NJ. He has researched oceanography and birds for NOAA, USNPS, USF&WS; taught at Rutgers University Dept. of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography; and studied shark fisheries in the Atlantic and Pacific. Most recently he co-directed the Women Researchers In Science – Journey to the Sea of Cortez Expedition; participated in climate monitoring, albatross surveys, biological research on Laysan duck disease and recovery, and invasive species removal at Papahanaumokuakea – Midway Atoll. Dave has presented in all coastal states, Canada, Germany and on international cruises.

 

Keith Hackland (Alamo Inn B&B Gear and Tours)
Keith was raised in South Africa and has followed the birds since he was a toddler. Today he lives in Texas on the border where he founded the world-famous Alamo Inn B&B, Gear & Tours in 1999. He is chairman of Texas Birding, a non-profit co-op founded in 2001 that promotes Texas as a birding destination. With his wife, Audrey, he has attended the largest gathering of birders on earth, the British Bird Fair, where with the help of other volunteers they have promoted Texas Birding for the past 17 years. He loves birding, serving birders, travel, writing, and photography.

 

Dawn Hewitt (Bird Watcher’s Digest)
Dawn Hewitt is editor for Bird Watcher’s Digest and Watching Backyard Birds, attempting to fill the huge shoes left by her former boss and mentor, Bill Thompson, III. She was bitten by the birding bug in 1979 during an ornithology class in college. Some of her first and best birding adventures were in Florida’s Space Coast and Treasure Coast while visiting her parents each winter for 20 years. She was the birding columnist for the Bloomington, Indiana, newspaper for 13 years, and is a past president of Sassafras Audubon Society. She has been to all 50 states, and birded in most of them.

 

Jesse Huth (Partnership for International Birding)
Jesse was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country, and began birding at the age of six. He quickly joined up with local birding groups and started going on birding trips all over the state. He eventually started leading local trips for the Wimberley Birding Society and captaining a team in the Great Texas Birding Classic almost every year. He regularly conducts bird surveys for landowners who maintain wildlife management plans on their properties around Texas. Now, with over 20 years of experience birding in Texas, he leads a number of Texas trips for the Partnership for International Birding and assists with other trips around the country. Jesse enjoys birding all over the world, including many parts of the United States, India, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Cuba, and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine.
He graduated from Texas A&M with an M.S. in poultry welfare and behavior and a B.S. in poultry science. When he’s not birding, Jesse runs a poultry consultation business to help small flock owners correctly raise, house, feed, care for, and understand their chickens.

 

Stephen Ingraham (Zeiss Sports Optics) – See Photographers

 

Dean Jais (Sticky Rice Travel)
Not many people can say they’ve introduced the British royal couple to an orangutan and her baby, but Dean can (although he couldn’t get them to shake hands!). Fueled by curiosity and with the jungle as his classroom, Dean started guiding in his late teens. From nature novice to jungle guru Dean quickly excelled, becoming an expert in Borneo’s birds, insects and mammals after spending the last 10 years tracking orangutans in the wild and teaching people about rainforest ecology. He says “my favorite place in Borneo is Danum Valley because it is the perfect example of virgin rainforest, teeming with every animal you can dream of”. Equipped with his vast knowledge and high professionalism, Dean is entrusted to guide trips and excursions for National Geographic Expeditions at prime destinations in Borneo for the past three years. In all his trips, each place he goes to never ceases to amaze him. He never bores returning to the jungle, as there is always something different to see every time and sharing the experience with guests.


Joao Jara (Birds & Nature Tours Portugal)

With more than 30 years of field experience, João has extensive knowledge about birding in Portugal. He was a member of the board of Birdlife Portugal, a voting member of the PRC (Portuguese Rarities Committee) from 2005–2011, and chairman of the PRC from 2007–2011. Author and co-author of articles about birds, João has led many field tours in Portugal and abroad, as well as bird identification courses for Birdlife Portugal and for his own birding tours company, Birds & Nature Tours Portugal, which he launched in 2008. Besides birds, he has an active special interest in amphibians, reptiles, and fishes. João is fluent in English, French, and Spanish.

 

Kevin Karlson (Kevin T. Karlson Photography)See Field Trip and Workshop Leaders

 

Adam Kent (Florida Ornithological Society) –See Field Trip and Workshop Leaders

 

Gina Kent (Avian Research & Conservation Institute) – See Field Trip and Workshop Leaders

 

James L. Kimball, II (Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge)

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Jim’s love of nature grew as his family explored the outdoors – camping or staying in “shacks”, along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico, across the hill country and highland plains of Texas, and on to the Rocky Mountains.  After graduating from the University of Texas, he went to work for ten grueling years, as a sales and marketing specialist for a Houston based petrochemical company. In 1999, Jim packed it all up, and moved with his partners to the Wild Wild West of Panama to immerse himself in the rainforest and create Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge. He has spent the last 19 years onsite raising a family, operating the business alongside his team, wildlife guiding and twitching at anything that moves.

 

Arturo Kirkconnell Sr. (Partnership for International Birding)

Arturo Sr.’s curriculum vitae includes 77 scientific papers and he is the co-author of two books: A Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba, and A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Caymans. At present he is working in another project: The Birds of Cuba that will be published by the BOU Checklist Series. Arturo has been leading birding tours in his native Cuba since 1988. To date he has guided more than 200 birding groups. He designed the present birding itinerary and the main birding strategies in Cuba for the birding tour company that he and his son, Arturo Kirkconnell, Jr. operate: Kirkconnell Birds.

 

Nancy and Dan Kon (Imagine Our Florida)

Nancy and Dan are Founders and Directors of Imagine Our Florida, Inc. (IOF) – a non-profit organization focused on science-based education to teach people of all ages how to connect, respect, and coexist with Florida wildlife and within our shared ecosystems. Under their leadership, IOF and its many volunteers participate in outreach events throughout the state. They become business partners with Seminole County Schools and the Orlando Science Center and have a vibrant social media presence. Together with IOF volunteers throughout the state, Nancy and Dan are educating and empowering the people of Florida to become a voice for our wildlife and to advocate for environmental stewardship.

 

Erin Lehnert (M.Sc. Ornithology)

Erin got her master’s degree in ornithology from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she studied rails. Her passion for birds has driven her to travel across North America while working, and she currently works as a biologist for Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Erin wants to protect the wild areas of the world, and hopes that through research and science she can contribute to conservation practices for birds and all other wildlife. Erin hopes that by sharing enthusiasm for the natural world, those that she encounters will also find a love for nature and the world around them.

 

Christina Majdalani (Beaumont Convention and Visitor’s Bureau)

Christina is the Director of Tourism for the Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is focused on tourism development and programs centered around nature tourism, culinary tourism and seasonal promotions. Christina is charged with working to strengthen partnerships with hospitality partners and is a vital part of the CVB Marketing Team working to expand content marketing, communications and further the Beaumont Destination Training Program. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.

 

Judith Mirembe (Bird Uganda Safaris)

Judith is a Masters’ student at Uganda’s Makerere University studying Environment and Natural Resources Management. She is an EDGE/Segre Fellow, doing research on the Shoebill in Mabamba and Makanaga Wetlands under the EDGE Fellowship (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered Species) with funding and support from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Segre Foundation. She works at Bird Uganda Safaris as a Naturalist guide specializing in birdwatching. Judith is the Chairperson of the Uganda Women Birders’ Club, started in May 2013 with an aim to increase the number of women participating in Nature Guiding, especially Bird Guiding. The Club is supported by the Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA) and the Uganda Bird Guides Club. The Club seeks to equip Ugandan women with knowledge, skills in Nature Guiding, and research to enable them to participate in the conservation of Nature. She is also a birds and wildlife tour guide at Bird Uganda Safaris.

 

Nigel Moorhouse (Sarus Bird Tours & Japanbirding.com)

Nigel is the owner of Sarus Bird Tours in the UK, and its offshoot, Japanbirding.com. His interest in birds was sparked at an early age and he has carried it on through studying zoology at university, working on conservation sites, authoring articles and books (including A Birdwatchers Guide to Turkey) and finally setting up his own company. He has now worked in birding tourism for over 25 years, guiding tours throughout the world. He enjoys sharing his experiences and knowledge with those on tour, as well as specializing in providing tailored services for self-guided birders in Japan.

 

Giovani Ortiz (Icaro Birding Tours)

Giovani Ortiz is a Colombian outdoors enthusiast who fell in love with birding while living in the US. After joining the local bird club in New Orleans almost by accident, Giovani learned about the huge potential for ecotourism in his home country and started organizing tours for local birding friends. After successfully completing 5 birding tours to Colombia, the passion and determination to get Colombia into the spotlight for its unparalleled natural beauty are stronger than ever. Giovani holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and an MBA. He worked for three years in Michigan supporting the local startup community before founding Icaro Birding Tours in 2017.

 

Jody Palmer (Brevard Zoo)

Jody developed a passion for conservation at a young age and always knew she wanted to help ‘Save the World.’ Raised along the coast and being drawn to the water, an avid SCUBA diver, hiker and adventurer; marine and estuarine conservation has come natural to Jody. As the Director of Conservation for Brevard Zoo, she enjoys overseeing a dynamic team of ambitious conservationists who have dedicated their lives to the preservation and restoration of species ranging from the Eastern Oyster to the Perdido Key Beach Mouse as well as living shoreline restoration and stabilization and a variety of international conservation efforts. With a background in environmental education, and animal behavior and a BS from Florida Institute of Technology, sharing conservation and sustainability messages makes it easy to get others excited about making eco-friendly choices with a high impact. She was recognized by Walt Disney World Conservation Fund as a Heroes of Conservation, as well as Field & Stream magazine as a Conservation Hero for work in estuarine habitat restoration. She leads efforts for some of the nation’s largest community-based volunteer and citizen scientist outreach projects for oyster restoration.

Jody lives in Rockledge, FL and enjoys time off with her two children, Graham and Coral.

 

Barry Rossheim (Holbrook Travel / Selva Verde Lodge & Private Reserve)

Barry Rossheim is an avid birder and amateur wildlife photographer. He has been teaching zoology since 1980, and is currently teaching at Venice High School in Venice, Florida. Barry was awarded the Sarasota County Environmental Educator of the Year in 2007. Barry has led birding groups to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Galapagos Islands using Holbrook Travel.

 

Charles Ryan (Sticky Rice Travel) 

Sometimes, things just fall into place by accident. Charles moved to Borneo in 2008 to work on community development projects with a focus on conservation. The focus of these projects was to create alternative livelihoods through the form of forest restoration projects, capacity training, and community tourism initiatives. One of the main goals of these projects is to curb illegal poaching and logging in rural communities. Today, the projects are successful and still running and Charles is still involved with consulting work with them. The current project he is working on is in a village on the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu with the goal of creating alternatives to poaching and depending on forest products through education, awareness, and tourism initiatives in the community. In part with this, he spends time training individuals that are interested in becoming nature guides throughout Borneo, which he believes is an invaluable skill to promote conservation. He has now been living in Borneo for 12 years, and is an expert naturalist specializing mammals, birds, and rainforest ecology. Charles has traveled extensively throughout the world, visiting over 50 countries; primarily in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. When traveling, his focus is to photograph rare wildlife and traditional communities and use images to educate people on the importance of tradition and conservation. Some of his favorite places to travel include expeditions into the interior of Borneo, Papua, DR Congo, and remote regions of Myanmar. Being an avid photographer, Charles’ work is specialized in wildlife of Asia. His most extensive work is documenting all of the fauna of Borneo, which include the first images taken of several species with a DSLR. Charles has images that have been published in NPR, Audubon, BBC and various science journals. Charles also runs wildlife photography workshops throughout Asia.

 

Vicki Santello (Vicki Santello Photography)

Vicki is a Florida based photographer who has kayaked, hiked and biked extensively in Florida for more than thirty years. She now also travels worldwide and is closely associated with C4 Photo Safaris. Her photography is exhibited in various galleries and museums including The Harn Museum of Art, Florida and Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa. Some of her awards include, winner Nature’s Best Photography Africa Competition 2018 Wild Cat Behavioral Category, winner Florida Wildlife Federation 2016 Waterscape Category and multiple National Geographic and North American Nature Photography Association recognitions.

 

Megan Stolen (Hubbs Sea World Research Institute)

Megan began working for the Hubbs Sea World Research Institute in 1999 after graduating from the University of Central Florida with a Master’s in Biology. An expert in marine mammalogy, her position at HSWRI allows her to work as a biologist in the field as well as spend time at the bench in the HSWRI Life History Laboratory. Together with HSWRI biologists Wendy Noke Durden and Teresa Mazza, she has rescued and released dozens of injured or at-risk dolphins and determined the cause of death for hundreds of stranded cetaceans including baleen whales. She is recognized as an expert in her field and now teaches at workshops throughout the U.S.

 

Simon Thompson (Ventures Birding Tours)

Originally from Suffolk, England, Simon has lived in North Carolina for the last 20 years. Prior to moving to the United States, he lived in Lebanon, Kenya, Yemen, and Ghana, where his interest in birds and natural history began. In addition to traveling extensively in the U.S., Simon spent six months in China studying the crane and birds of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. He is on the board of the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society in Asheville, NC. As owner and operator of Ventures Birding Tours, Simon has led many birding trips all over the world.

 

Gustavo Ustariz (Choose Honduras)

Gustavo Ustariz holds an MBA in Tourism Management and has worked in tourism planning and development since 2002.  His theme areas include birding, agritourism, nature-based, and rural tourism with a focus on the sustainable development framework and entrepreneurship. He is a firm believer that sustainable tourism can be a tool for the reduction of poverty, and can serve as an incentive to protect and conserve natural spaces. His current and previous projects include: designing and launching a travel marketing platform, CHOOSE HONDURAS, for promoting culture & nature travel to Honduras, designing and launching a coffee tourism marketing platform VISIT HONDURAS COFFEE, creating marketing channels for community-based tourism initiatives centered around national parks in the north coast of Honduras, conceptualizing a tent hotel in Nicaragua’s Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, drafting the first National Tour Guide Regulations for Honduras, and developing food tourism experiences, among others.

 

Ric Zarwell (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures)

Ric and his wife have birded 38 nations on 6 continents. Ric has bird sighting goals for 36 different geographic areas ranging from his yard (current total 189 species) to the world (4,031 species). He has been very active in bird conservation at all levels since retirement from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. For the past six years Ric has been the North American Marketing Coordinator for Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures, ORYX Photographic Expeditions, and ORYX Wildlife Safaris.

 

Brian Zwiebel (Sabrewing Nature Tours)

Brian began his journey with birds by enrolling in an Ornithology class at Hocking College in 1993. Six years later he began photographing the subjects he had come to know so well. Warblers are among Brian’s favorite subjects. He spends much of his free time in May photographing warblers at northern Ohio’s Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. His work has been prominently displayed in exhibits throughout Ohio and more than thirty of his songbird images were featured at the National Center for Nature Photography in Toledo, OH. Brian’s award-winning photography has been internationally published in books and magazines including Birder’s World, Bird Watching, Bird Watcher’s Digest and the American Birding Association’s magazine Birding.

Contact

321 268 5224

festival@brevardnaturealliance.org

Eastern Florida State College, Titusville, Florida

Adjacent to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
and near the Canaveral National Seashore and Kennedy Space Center

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