Classroom Presenters

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Field Trip and Workshop Leaders

Bryan Ames (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Bryan is a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on two FWC lead properties; Salt Lake Wildlife Management Area (SLWMA) in Brevard County and Split Oak Forest Wildlife Environmental Area (SOFWEA) in Orange County. He has been employed by FWC since April 2002; working at SLWMA since 2004. His focus as a land manager is implementing prescribed fire, wildlife surveys and monitoring, exotic plant species control, physical/mechanical vegetation treatments, and managing passive recreation and public hunting opportunities.

 

Sarah Anderson (Space Coast Audubon)

Sarah got interested in watching birds as many people do: watching bird feeders while growing up. She graduated from Warren Wilson College with a BA in Environmental Studies in 1987. After moving to Florida in 1992, she joined Space Coast Audubon, became an officer on the board and started going on field trips and helping with CBCs. Sarah has led field trips for the SCBWF for 18 years. Sarah got a dream job (getting paid to watch birds) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station monitoring the population of threatened Florida Scrub-Jays that live on the “Cape.” Through associates with Space Coast Audubon and friends made at SCBWF, Sarah was able to participate in birding trips to the Dry Tortugas, Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize.

 

Amar Ayyash (Gull Expert, Blogger and Speaker)

Amar is both an expert on gull identification and an evangelist for ‘gull recreation’. He hosts several popular websites devoted to gulling, and he has published various technical articles on gull ID and range shifts. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Ornithological Society and coordinates the Annual Gull Frolic. Amar lives in Northern Illinois and does much of his gull-watching in the Lake Michigan region. Beside supplementing the need to ramble about this fascinating family of birds, the primary objective in maintaining this website (www.anythinglarus.com) is to advance gull recreation in North America.  Visit “North American Gulls” on Facebook. Contact: amarayyash@gmail.com

 

Christina Baal (Drawing 10,00 Birds) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Dr. David Breininger (NASA Kennedy Space Center Ecology Program)

Dave’s research interests focus on integrating science and conservation management emphasizing endangered wildlife populations, habitat and ecosystem dynamics. His oldest study (30 years) focuses on the Florida Scrub-Jay and his newest topics include modeling of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem and studies of rare and elusive species. Today, Dave sits on many conservation advisory boards, working with natural resource managers from federal, state, and local governments, nonprofits, and private organizations. A renowned published author and lecturer, Dave has earned many awards, including the Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Colleague Award, the JFK Award for Leadership. In addition, he recently received the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director’s Conservation Award.

 

Michael Brothers (Marine Science Center)

Michael has been the Director of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida for the past 11 years. He a member of the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee, which evaluates reports of birds recorded in the wild in Florida and is responsible for updating the scientific record of Florida’s bird life. Michael is also a regional editor of the journal “North American Birds.” He is currently conducting a banding project on Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Volusia County in hopes of determining the breeding location of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls in North America.

 

Chris Brown (Wildside Nature Tours)

After beginning his college career at the University of Montana, Chris took several years to gain experience through biological field work. This led him through jobs in 10 states and with multiple bird observatories, including breeding bird surveys in Montana, bird and habitat surveys in several other Rocky Mountain States, breeding bird atlas work in Ohio and counting migrating hawks and seabirds in Cape May and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. He continues to work towards degrees in Wildlife Biology and Plant Science.

 

Ken Burgener (Carefree Birding) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Kevin Burke (Ventures Birding Tours)

Kevin was introduced to birding while taking an ornithology class in Ohio and has been birding every day since. He has a degree in Resource and Recreation Tourism from the University of Idaho. Kevin really started to hone his birding skills while living on the coast of North Carolina teaching environmental education. Birding has brought Kevin across the country and abroad. He has led expeditions in Washington’s San Juan Islands, Idaho’s back country and the southern Appalachian chain. Kevin has recently started to expand his birding outside of the United States with trips to Portugal and Colombia. Birding is becoming a life journey for Kevin and he loves to share his knowledge and help others grow their skills in bird identification. Originally from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Kevin Burke now lives with his wife and two young children in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

 

Shem Compion (C4 Photo Safaris) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Glenn Crawford (Wildside Nature Tours)

Glenn is a naturalist and teacher of outstanding abilities. His mastery of bird identification is excelled only by the acuity of his vision and hearing. Curious about birds as a child, Glenn began his “official” birding career as a young teenager in northern Belize. He was so excited about birds, he would spend days in the bush studying their field marks, habits and vocalizations long before he ever knew about field guides or binoculars. Glenn became an official Belizean licensed guide in 1986, and has since continued his nature studies throughout Central America. With Wildside for over 15 years, you can enjoy Glenn’s ever-present smile and energetic leadership on each of our Central America birding focused tours!

 

Paddy Cunningham (Birding Adventures) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Tom Dunkerton

Tom is a Pro Staffer for Opticron North America, a sport and nature optics company, promoting their binoculars and spotting scopes throughout the U.S. at various birding events. Tom grew up fishing and crabbing off the shores of Staten Island, constantly wandering the available wooded areas. Turning over stones and logs to investigate what lies beneath led to an early interest in reptiles and amphibians. It wasn’t until 1985 that his eyes were opened to the wonderful world of bird watching when his girlfriend at the time (now his wife) gave Tom his first birding field guide. He’s been hooked ever since! After moving to Florida in 1995, Tom got a job as a field research technician studying Florida Scrub-jays on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  In 2003, after participating in shorebird surveys at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Tom was inspired to take up photography. Initially, it was simply to photograph birds to better study them. Spending every waking moment out in the field when not working afforded him some grand experiences and lessons in patience that led his photography to become just as much an obsession as birding itself. Tom and his family recently moved to Iowa, one of the best kept birding secrets in the U.S.

 

Jim Eager (Obsessive Compulsive Birding)

After a 35-year career with BellSouth, Jim realized his dream of doing field work after being selected as a raptor observer for the 2008 Florida Keys HawkWatch Project. As an avian field technician, Jim has studied Bachman’s Sparrows in North Carolina, shorebirds/seabirds in Florida and breeding songbirds in Virginia. He has spent many years birding at Merritt Island NWR. Jim is the Social Media Coordinator as well as a 10-year field trip leader for the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival. He is a Florida Ornithological Society (FOS) board member recently become Associate Editor (for bird distribution) for the FOS “Florida Field Naturalist”. Jim owns Obsessive Compulsive Birding, specializing in guided trips in and around Central Florida.

 

Gunnar Engblom (Kolibri Expeditions) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Dave Goodwin (Florida Ornithological Society)

Dave has been birding Florida since the age of fifteen. A retired History Teacher, he now spends his time as an environmental instructor for nature camps at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg, and as a bird monitor for an environmental survey firm. He also helps lead tours to the Dry Tortugas and South Florida. He has seen more than 470 species of birds in Florida and is closing in on 700 species for the lower 48 states.

 

Jeff Gordon (American Birding Association)

Jeff is the president of the American Birding Association and a well-known writer, photographer and naturalist. There’s very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn’t find fascinating, though he’s especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds. The American Birding Association inspires all people to enjoy and protect wild birds and offers a wealth of resources for birders, as well as providing a suite of effective conservation and community programs that aim to build a brighter future for birds and for birders.

 

Liz Gordon (American Birding Association)

Liz Deluna Gordon has been birding for more than 30 years. She got her start in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where she first discovered Plain Chachalacas, the previously-unknown source of the ear-splitting noises that had awakened her on many a spring morning. A member of the team that founded the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, her passion for birds and their habitats, birding and the birding community drives her every day. Liz is the ABA Events Coordinator and truly enjoys keeping track of all the details of running a successful and fun event. Just like you, she’d rather be birding!

 

Mitchell Harris (Florida Ornithological Society)

Mitchell has been interested in Natural History and all things out-of-doors from his earliest memories as a small child growing up in Vero Beach Fl. He took up birding fifteen years ago, and is now an avid birder that is most interested in pelagic type birds but enjoys anything that flies. His spark bird might have been a white morph Gyrfalcon that he saw many years ago, just north of the Brooks Range on the North Slope of Alaska.

 

David Hartgrove (Halifax River Audubon)

Dave’s “spark bird” was a Loggerhead Shrike, in 1973. He was a backyard birder until 1986 when he was introduced to hard core birding through the first Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. In 1987 he became the Conservation Chair for Halifax River Audubon, in Daytona Beach. In 1996 he became compiler for the Daytona Beach CBC. He’s lead trips to the Dry Tortugas, Cuba and Panama. 2017 marks 13 years leading trips at the festival.

 

Matt Heyden (Space Coast Audubon)

Matt holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology, which helps him in his work as a long-term board member and Conservation Chair for Space Coast Audubon.  He has been leading birding and kayak trips for more than 15 years, and is an advocate for several conservation organizations primarily focusing on the role between native landscapes and bird populations.

 

Joao Jara (Birds & Nature Tours Portugal) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Kevin Karlson (Kevin T. Karlson Bird and Nature Photography)

Kevin is a birder, tour leader and wildlife photographer who has published many bird and nature related articles for magazines, books, and journals. He is a regular presence at nature festivals, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. Kevin has also authored five books on bird ID and photography. They include The Shorebird Guide, Birding by Impression, Birds of Prey, and the upcoming Gulls Simplified. Two photography books are The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography. Kevin produced six photographic laminated foldout guides on Raptors, Waterfowl, Warblers, Shorebirds and Owls and Nightjars.

 

John Kendall (Indiana Bird Records Committee)

John has been interested in nature and birding (before birding was cool or even existed) for over 50 years. He has 8mm movies of birds at his home-made bird feeder with a spark bird Red-breasted Nuthatch. An avid “snowbirder” in New Smyrna Beach, John retired from Nalco Co. after a 38-year career as a Chemical Engineer, Sales Manager and Consultant. He has birded in a dozen countries amassing approximately 3,000 species and ~700 in US Lower 48. He has birded extensively in Florida, Texas (lived), California, Michigan, Pennsylvania (lived) Arizona and Oregon. He enjoys all types of birding, esp. Seawatching/pelagic and shorebirds. John has been birding Indiana and the Indiana Dunes area for 28 years. He was the Indiana Audubon Quarterly Editor, 2010-2016 and past Chairman of the Indiana Bird Records Committee and member for 8 years. John has 370 species in Indiana and established the Indiana Big Year record at 312 species in 2008. John is a founder and Secretary of NIMBA, (Northwest Indiana Migratory Bird Association). A particularly rewarding experience has been initiating and maintaining a fifteen-year old Purple Martin colony where he and his wife, Kathy reside. His favorite charity is American Bird Conservancy.

 

Adam Kent (Florida Ornithological Society)

Adam is an enthusiastic bird nerd who enjoys watching birds in his backyard as well as exotic locals around the globe. A highlight of Adam’s bird adventures was making recordings that led to the description of a new species of bird in Mexico, the Nava’s Wren. Adam has worked on a variety of bird jobs in Florida and internationally and also leads birding tours. While with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he developed the educational program Bird Detective, assessed sites for the Great Florida Birding Trail, and worked as the state’s first Scrub-Jay Conservation Coordinator.

 

Gina Kent (Avian Research and Conservation Institute)

Since 2000, Gina Kent has been based in Florida with the Avian Research and Conservation Institute, www.arcinst.org. Whether conducting bird surveys from small planes, boating around the Florida Keys, or climbing up 100-foot tall trees, Gina has worked with many Florida specialty birds including Short-tailed Hawks, Snail Kites, Swallow-tailed Kites, Reddish Egrets, White-crowned Pigeons and others. She travels throughout the Southeast US and internationally to capture birds for telemetry studies, to follow migrating birds, and to gather data to inform management and conservation. Her free time is spent birding, traveling, and guiding trips with her husband Adam.

 

James L. Kimball, II (Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Kim King-Wrenn (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Merritt Island NWR)

Kim began her conservation career with the National Park Service, going from Everglades National Park to the Grand Canyon and then to Acadia National Park on Maine’s rocky coast. Along the way she learned how gateway communities can be valuable partners in achieving the shared goals of the Service and the local community. She transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997, working at Pea Island NWR on the NC coast. There Kim worked with local, state, federal and non-profit partners establishing the Wings Over Water Festival, which became a model for successful public-private partnerships in eco-tourism. As the Visitor Services Manager at MINWR, Kim works on permitting for eco-tour guides.

 

Selena Kiser (Wildlife Biologist)

Selena is an avid birder, naturalist, and wildlife writer/photographer, with a Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology. She has mostly worked with birds since moving to Florida in 2005, but had spent years prior to that protecting bats.  She enjoys educating people about wildlife and has led birding field trips for 13 years. She has participated in the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival every year since 2005, leading festival tours since 2008.

 

Vince Lamb (Preserve Brevard) 

Vince is a Florida Master Naturalist and Nature Photographer.  Vince was heavily involved as a volunteer during the translocation efforts led by Brevard Zoo to move multiple Florida Scrub Jays families from areas being developed to conservation lands.  For nine years, he has assisted with Audubon Jay Watch at ten locations.  He serves on an advisory committee for the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, which manages more than 22,000 acres on conservation lands.

 

Alex Lamoreaux (Wildside Nature Tours)

Alex attended Penn State University, studying wildlife biology. A freelance nature tour guide, field biologist, and wildlife photographer, Alex has traveled extensively throughout North America, Central America, and South Africa. Alex has worked on wildlife research projects ranging from Whimbrel migration along the coast of Virginia to Yellow-billed Cuckoo nesting in the desert southwest. As migration counter at the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, he has documented the massive visible migration of raptors and songbirds along Lake Superior.

 

Tom Ledford (Space Coast Audubon)

Tom has been birding for about forty years. He moved to Florida 3 1/2 years ago. Tom served as a board member with Mecklenburg Audubon in Charlotte NC, and led field trips for that organization. He now helps lead some field trips for Space Coast Audubon.

 

Erin Lehnert (M.Sc. Ornithology) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Lora Losi (Space Coast Audubon)

Lora holds a Master’s degree in bio-chemical research and has taught physics, chemistry and biology for more than 20 years.  A long-term board member for Space Coast Audubon, she has been leading birding and kayak trips for more than 15 years.  In addition, she is an advocate for 12 different conservation organizations.

 

Gabriel Lugo (Wildside Nature Tours)

Gabriel is a certified Puerto Rico guide, his passion sparked by an invitation to join an Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Curiosity became a passion and Gabriel was soon making major sightings throughout Puerto Rico, earning a strong reputation with the local birding community. One of the top birding guides in Puerto Rico, his contributions led him to be elected President of the Puerto Rico Ornithological Society. His contagious enthusiasm helped make him an excellent leader!

 

Lorne Malo (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Lorne is a Regional Biologist for the Invasive Plant Management Section, FWC.  His duties there include managing vegetation in public waterbodies in west Orange County.  Prior to that, Lorne worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St Johns River Water Management District. Lorne has also worked for DEP part-time for 16 years doing bird surveys on the Wekiva River/St. Johns River & Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserves.  In his spare time Lorne participates in monthly bird and butterfly surveys, and is a compiler for the Audubon Econlockhatchee CBC.  Lorne also leads birding tours each January for the SCBWF in Titusville, and is a tour guide contractor for the SJRWMD at the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area

 

Samantha McGee (Florida Department of Environmental Protection)

Sammy is the Park Environmental Specialist at St Sebastian River Preserve State Park. A native Floridian, she was born and raised in Melbourne Beach. Her first jobs were in the western U.S. working with various environmental agencies. Upon returning to the east, Sammy joined the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Aquatic Preserves Program. For 1 ½ years she spent most of her days in a wet suit researching sea grasses and shellfish in the Banana River and in the Mosquito and Indian River Lagoons. Sammy has been at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park since 2004. Her many projects there include prescribed fire management, hydrologic restoration, exotic invasive species eradication, public education and outreach, and protected species management and monitoring, including Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.

 

Greg Miller (Wildside Nature Tours)

Greg has birded in all 50 states and much of Canada during his 50 years of birding. In 1998 Greg zigzagged across the continent–traveling 130,000 miles–to try to see as many species of birds in one calendar year as possible. He passed the 700-species mark—an achievement many birders aspire to in a lifetime. But there was competition. Two other birders did “Big Years” the same year as Greg and also broke the 700- mark. Their competitive quests are documented in the 2004 non-fiction book, The Big Year, by Mark Obmascik. Twentieth Century Fox made a full feature motion picture inspired by the book. Greg serves on many bird-related boards and committees and was instrumental in decisions on listing and conservation.

 

Christian Newton (Local Naturalist)

Chris first started birding in the mid 80’s when his father and uncle took him on birding trips and Christmas Bird Counts throughout the Northeast. In spring 2019 outside of Phoenix, AZ Chris got his 700th species for North America; Ruddy Ground-Dove. Chris has been a birding guide in Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Texas and has worked as an on-call field biologist for environmental firms; monitoring raptor nests in Nevada and Florida. He currently works as a zoological manager overseeing giraffes, lions, rhinos and zebras and nightly operations. In 2015, Chris did an Osceola County Big Year in competition with his friend Gallus Quigley, who did a Lake County Big Year. Chris saw 236 bird species, a record for Osceola County.

 

Giovani Ortiz (Icaro Birding Tours) – See Classroom Presenters

 

Rita Perini (Environmental Scientist Brevard County Solid Waste)

Rita is an Environmental Scientist with the Brevard County Solid Waste Management Department with over 32 years of experience in environmental safety and hazardous waste management. As Brevard County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program Manager since 1992, Rita has dedicated herself to providing quality service and education programs to the residents and small businesses throughout the county.  Her duties include procurement and administration of waste management contracts, staff recruitment and training, development of standard operating procedures and contingency programs, and permit compliance.  Protecting Florida’s fragile environment is at the forefront for developing and managing Brevard County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection program.

 

Martha Pessaro (Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program)

Martha is the EEL Program Central Region Education Center Coordinator and is living her dream of working with the EEL Program after retirement from the Space Shuttle Program where she completed a 34-year career from the birth to the end of the program. Her staunch environmental volunteer efforts for the EEL program began prior to the beginning of program while working with the Friends of the Enchanted Forest in saving the land from development. After 25 years of volunteer work and leadership, Martha joined the EEL Workforce in 2012 as a Naturalist and became the Sanctuary Steward which has provided opportunities to engage in educational programs, preservation and conservation of environmental, historic and cultural resources, and daily interpretation and interface with the visiting public.

 

Jim Peterson (St Johns River Water Management District)  

Jim is the president of Oakland Nature Preserve on Lake Apopka and an environmental scientist for the   St. John’s River Water Management District where he is the Lake Apopka Field Station Supervisor. His areas of expertise are aquatic flora and fauna and birds.

 

Gallus Quigley (Archaeopteryx Birding and Nature Tours)

Gallus began watching raptors in the 8th grade at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, thus began his love of hawks. But it was seeing a picture of a Prothonotary Warbler that launched him into the world of birding. He arrived in Florida in 2005 to perform radio telemetry and banding of the critically endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. This led to his current job with Lake County Office of Parks & Trails where he performs quarterly bird & butterfly surveys on six conservation properties. Gallus has been on Birding Adventures with James Currie and was the Keynote Speaker for 2015 Wings & Wildflowers Festival in addition to being a guide and speaker at that event since it began. He is the eBird reviewer for Lake and Sumter Counties, Compiler for Zellwood-Mt. Dora (Lake Apopka) CBC, eBird Hotspot Reviewer for Florida, has assisted with Jay Watch, beta tested eBird and Birdseye apps for Android, and was Lake County Coordinator for Florida BBA 2011-2016. He also is a trip leader for North Shore Birding Festival, Festival of Flight & Flowers and Birds of a Feather Fest. Gallus participates in numerous Christmas Bird Counts and often accompanies his wife Beck on NABA Butterfly Surveys.

Joel Reynolds (Wildlife Photographer and Landfill Liaison)

What a joy it is to be part of the Space Coast Birding Festival each year! I get to see birds and people I’ve never seen. I learn from everything and everyone I see. Our trip leaders are not just leaders, they are passionate about showing us birds and telling us unknown things about them. Would you think Gulls are interesting? At last year’s visit to our Brevard County Landfill, Amar Ayyash almost knocked us over running to see if that one was an Icelandic Gull, and it was. That allows me to try to get a picture of it; I did. That also lets me help others to get the best settings on whatever camera they’re using to get a great picture!  I love that! Joel worked at the Kennedy Space Center for 30 years and never knew what a wildlife-rich area Central Florida is until attending the SCBWF. Now photographing wildlife is his passion!

 

Larry Richardson (Sabrewing Nature Tours)

Larry has been a top birding guide for more than 20 years with experience organizing and leading tours to the hottest birding spots in the US (South Texas, Southeast AZ, CA, ME, OH, Niagara Falls, FL, Atlantic Coast, Rocky Mountains, Prairie Pothole region, Great Lakes), New World Tropics (Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Galapagos, Ecuador), as well as Vietnam, Kenya and East Africa.   He has planned trips for groups both large and small, and has served as a senior leader for such companies as Sabrewing Tours and Chautauqua Backroads.  His world bird life list stands at 2,301 species.  Although an avid birder since his youth, Larry had to do other things for some years serving as a ranger and park manager for Ohio State Parks, Director of Arcadia Lake Park in Oklahoma, and Executive Director of the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center for 22 years.

 

Eric Ripma (Sabrewing Nature Tours)

Eric enjoys sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge, especially about identification, with birders of all ages and experience levels.  After beginning birding at the age of ten in Indianapolis, Indiana, he birded every chance he had throughout his childhood – from many spectacular migratory hotspots in the Great Lakes region to the Pacific coast and beyond.  Eric has also spent time birding in a number of tropical locations throughout Central and South America.  During college and after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in Biology, Eric conducted bird surveys for multiple organizations throughout the western United States.  He has also spent a fall migration season banding migratory birds in Idaho and in 2017 was on a team of researchers monitoring a nesting colony of Caspian Terns over the summer on the Oregon Coast. Last year, Eric completed his fourth season as the fall waterbird counter at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is currently living in Louisiana doing shorebird surveys on the Gulf Coast and assisting on a Masters/PhD project on Brown Pelicans.

 

Betty Salter (The Great Outdoors Trail Master and Naturalist) 

Betty has been a volunteer with US Fish and Wildlife Service at MINWR for about 25 years. She has been a Refuge Rover and a Beginning Birding Field Trip Leader. She created and implemented educational programs for students of all ages and worked with the University of Florida to establish the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network at MINWR.  All of these activities are dear to her, but one in particular became very important… working with the fire management team at the refuge where she gained a greater understanding of prescribed fire… why and how it is used. Betty serves on the Great Outdoors Nature, RV & Golf Resort Firewise Committee and as Trail Master for their Nature Center. There are 9 nature trails through conservation areas at the Great Outdoors.

 

Dr. Paul A. Schmalzer (NASA Kennedy Space Center Ecology Program)

Paul is a plant ecologist with Integrated Mission Support Services at Kennedy Space Center. He has studied scrub vegetation, fire ecology, scrub restoration, and related topics since 1982. He is author or co-author of 50 peer-reviewed publications and numerous technical reports. He has served on the Selection and Management Committee for the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program since 1990. His current research interests include: effects of fire on vegetation and soils, restoration of scrub ecosystems, distribution of rare scrub plants, and composition and dynamics of barrier island plant communities.

 

David Simpson (Birding with David Simpson)

David was born and raised in Brevard County Florida. With mentors like Helen Cruickshank and Johnnie Johnson and over 36 years in the field, it’s no wonder that he has become one of Florida’s premier birders. David has been leading birding tours in Florida for over 25 years, starting as a teenager leading field trips for his local Audubon chapter. Employment with the Florida Park Service, two Florida Big Years and countless Big Days, extensive county listing, and several environmental consulting jobs have led to an extensive knowledge of Florida’s amazing biodiversity. He was a Florida eBird reviewer and is currently a regional coordinator for the ongoing Florida Breeding Bird Atlas II Project. Check out his blog:birdingwithdavidsimpson.blogspot.com/.

 

Kelly Smith (American Birding Association)

As the newest member of the American Birding Association team, Kelly works in Delaware as the Headquarters Operations Manager.  A transplant birder from Texas, Kelly has assisted raptor and songbird banding projects in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. For the past decade Kelly has volunteered or served on the board of many nature organizations including the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and Balcones Songbird Festival, the South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalists, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, Texas Pelagics, and the Texas Ornithological Society.  An all-around nature lover, Kelly spends her time hiking, kayaking, scuba-diving, biking, and looking for herps.

 

Rebecca (Beck) Smith (Archaeopteryx Birding and Nature Tours)

Rebecca has been an avid birder and photographer for the last 12 years. She’s won several local photo contests and has a Florida state bird list of 350 species, including photos of each. She has a long resume of jobs in ornithology, studying everything from Clapper Rails to Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Beck is a certified master naturalist and bird bander. She’s worked as a guide for birding festivals, field trips, and individual clients since 2016, both at home in Florida and abroad. She brings a passion for everything nature and her love of birds, butterflies, and insects is contagious to everyone who goes out with her.  You won’t find anyone more knowledgeable or passionate about what she does.

 

Jim Stahl (Friends of Enchanted Forest)

Jim Stahl is a native of Ohio where he worked his entire career at a regional natural area park system of 20,000 acres as chief naturalist and natural resource manager. Among his duties were biotic surveys, prairie and wetland restorations, managing natural areas, and making presentations about nature. He also taught life sciences at both Capital and Otterbein Universities as an adjunct professor. After retiring he and his wife moved to the Titusville area where he has been an active volunteer for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Enchanted Forest, and is a long-time board member of the Space Coast Audubon Society. Jim has led field trips and presented talks for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival for about 17 years.

 

Edie Stiner

Edie is a retired medical technologist. She began birding in the early 1970’s when husband John did his research on migrating warblers. Together they have birded many national parks and famous birding spots during his 33 years in the National Park Service.

 

John Stiner (Retired National Park Service – Canaveral National Seashore)

Born in Pennsylvania Dutch country John grew up on scrapple, apple dumplings and shoofly pie. He spent 33 years in the National Park Service working at both historic and natural parks including Gettysburg, Fort Sumter, Great Smoky Mountains and Canaveral National Seashore. While at Canaveral he managed the sea turtle protection program which grew from 3000 to 8000 nests annually. Other duties involved research and protection of hundreds of archeological sites, the information which he loves to share.

 

Stephen Stipkovits (Florida Forest Service)

Steve is a Forester with the Florida Forest Service at the Little Big Econ and Charles H. Bronson State Forests. He received his B.S. in forest science from the Pennsylvania State University in 2005, where he is originally from. He has been with the Florida Forest Service for eleven years where he manages the forest for endangered species, wildlife, forest ecosystems, hydrology, exotic plant control, fire management and recreation.

 

Joan Tague (Halifax River Audubon)

Looking for a volunteer opportunity, Joan Tague walked into the Pittsburgh (now National) Aviary in 1987 and changed her life. Along with meeting her future husband, bIrds, birding and education became her focus from that point on. Chuck and Joan published a monthly newsletter for 12 years highlighting the natural history of Western Pennsylvania while encouraging adults and children to experience nature through their classroom and outdoor programs and field trips. They migrated to central Florida in 2005 and almost immediately were “discovered” here. Joan now leads field trips for adults and children, presents programs on Birds and Butterflies, and volunteers for wildlife surveys.

 

Simon Thompson (Ventures Birding Tours) – See Classroom Presenters

 

David Turner (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Dave is the Lead Area Biologist for the 5,045-acre Salt Lake Wildlife Management Area in Brevard County, and the 1,700-acre Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area in Orange and Osceola Counties. His main work duties include: habitat maintenance and restoration thru the use of prescribed fire, protection and preservation of listed, rare and focal flora and fauna, resource protection of natural communities thru treatment of invasive exotic flora and fauna, maintenance of infrastructure (roads, buildings, equipment, trails, kiosks, observation platforms, etc.), management of outdoor based recreational opportunities (public hunts, hiking, biking, equestrian riding, paddling, natural study, wildlife viewing, etc.), and the protection and preservation of historical resources.

 

Charlie Venuto (Space Coast Audubon)

Charlie is the Director for Environmental Health and Safety for Delaware North Corporation at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for the contractor responsible for assembling, maintaining and launching the Space Shuttle. Charlie is a part time Environmental Science Professor at the American Public University. He was awarded research grants from APUS to study the creation of the Merritt Island NWR and the lives of Allan and Helen Cruickshank. He is a Past President of the Space Coast Audubon Society and sits on the boards of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association, Brevard Nature Alliance and Friends of the Kissimmee Prairie. He is the Science Alternate for the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen’s Oversight Committee.

 

Maria Zondervan (St Johns River Water Management District)

Maria graduated from the University of Florida in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. In 2011, she received her Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Management through the University of Lund in Sweden. Maria worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for 3 years as a Biological Scientist before joining the St. Johns River Water Management District.  She has been there for 18 years, managing all the wildlife programs within the Bureau of Land Resources and serving as Land Manager for the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area. Current favorite projects include red-cockaded woodpecker translocation, scrub-jay habitat restoration and longleaf pine reforestation. Maria also works with barn owls, rodent studies, eagles, burrowing owls and alligators. She is a certified burn boss and an instructor for aerial ignition. Maria is also a Certified Wildlife Biologist and has been an active member of the Wildlife Society since 1996.

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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