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.
Julie Albert (Marine Resources Council)
Julie is the Coordinator for Marine Resource Council’s North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Program. Her projects educate the public on the biology and conservation of right whales. She runs the MRC’s Right Whale Spotter Network, one of the largest volunteer-based scientific networks in the U.S. The spotter network provides photos of right whales that are used to identify individual animals, as well as adding to databases the animals’ movements, abundance, behavior, habitat use and, in the case of mothers, their calving history.
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.
George Armistead (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures) – See Keynote Speakers
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 (http://www.anythinglarus.com) is to advance gull recreation in North America. Visit “North American Gulls” on Facebook. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Baal (Drawing 10,00 Birds) – See Classroom Presenters
Tiffany Barrineau (Community Outreach Coordinator Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival)
Tiffany has a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Marine Biology from Bloomsburg University, PA. She moved to Brevard County in 1999 and began working for the city of Satellite Beach as the Environmental Program Coordinator. She helped to manage Preservation 2000 lands and a 52-acre spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon. Currently, Tiffany stays busy being involved as the PTO Vice President at her son’s school, works with a local non-profit that tries to prevent drowning in young children, and is an ISR Infant Swim Instructor. She resides in Satellite Beach with her son.
Anne Birch (Florida Marine Program Manager: The Nature Conservancy)
Anne has been involved with marine conservation work in Florida for over 30 years. As the Florida Marine Program Manager, she guides the Florida Chapter’s marine work that focuses on restoring and managing our coastal systems and communities. This includes oyster reef restoration, assessing how natural habitats can help protect and shield our built environments from sea level rise and storms, and looking at how we can adapt to these and other coastal hazards, especially in the state’s urbanized areas. Prior to joining TNC she administered Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, protecting more than 32,000 acres of sensitive lands and managing the construction of the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary Nature Center. Anne is currently leading the development of large-scale oyster restoration projects in Pensacola Bay and developing a plan of action for managing oyster resources throughout the state. Anne received her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Biology and Marine Ecology.
Al Brayton (Merritt Island NWR Volunteer)
Al was born in Staten Island, NY in 1949. He attended Wagner College and earned a BS degree. Al has been birding since he was 17. He led more than 500 field trips for the John Burroughs Natural History Society in the Hudson Valley from 1971 until 2005. He also did a lot of hiking in the Catskill Mountains at the same time. During a ten-year span, Al planned and led most the trips for the Burroughs Society. That included approximately a dozen pelagic/whale watching trips. Al worked as a health inspector for over 30 years. He picked up more college courses in Ornithology, basic Biology and Chemistry thru his job. He authored several articles and short stories which appeared in the NYS Federation of Bird Clubs magazine as well as in the John Burroughs monthly publication. Al moved to Titusville in 2005 and started volunteering for USFWS at the Merritt Island NWR shortly thereafter. He is one of the driver/guides for the refuge tours. He also lead other walks and give lectures from time to time for MINWR.
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.
Wendy Clark (Bird Watcher’s Digest) – See Classroom Presenters
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
Gigi DelPizzo (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Gigi is a Freshwater Fisheries Biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. And avid birder since 2012, she participates in research on Florida Scrub-Jay’s, North American Breeding Bird Survey’s, Bluebird Nesting Box surveys, June challenges, Eagle Watch, Quarterly bird and butterfly surveys in Lake County, numerous CBCs, Hawkwatch counts, and occasionally helps at the Lake Lotus Bird Banding station. She enjoys extensive traveling and birding around the United States and abroad.
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
Tracy Frampton (Florida Wildlife Hospital)
Tracy is the Executive Director of FWH. After a career in working with captive wildlife around the country and partnering on several wildlife conservation projects locally here in Brevard County, she made a career change and is now leading the efforts at the Florida Wildlife Hospital.
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!
Jason Guerard (Black Swamp Bird Observatory) – See Spotlight Speakers
Catherine Hamilton (Wildside Nature Tours) – See Keynote Speakers
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.
Dawn Hewitt (Bird Watcher’s Digest) – See Classroom Presenters
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.
Ross Hinkle (Professor Emeritus in Biology University of Central Florida)
Ross is Professor Emeritus Department of Biology University of Central Florida. He has a BA in Biology from Warren Wilson College and an MS and PhD in Plant Ecology from the University of Tennessee. Ross spent 25 years at Kennedy Space Center where he conducted ecological research and managed ecological and life sciences programs. He was a charter member of the Brevard Nature Alliance and original member and long-time Chair of the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Selection and Management Committee.
Jesse Huth (Partnership for International Birding) – See Classroom Presenters
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.
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.
Arturo Kirkconnell, Jr. (Partnership for International Birding)
Arturo was born and raised in Havana, Cuba where he studied computer science. Since the age of 12, he has been travelling and birding with his father, Arturo Kirkconnell, Sr., participating in many expeditions and as his field assistant in bird research. Arturo Jr. led his first birding tour for a group of British birders at the age of 20, and has happily been guiding ever since. He is currently working on several projects about the Birds of Cuba, including a website APP and the next version of the Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba for Princeton Press. Arturo Jr. and his father operate a birding tour company in Cuba: Kirkconnell Birds.
Arturo Kirkconnell Sr. (Partnership for International Birding) – See Classroom Presenters
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.
Ben Knoot (Tropical Birding) – See Photographers
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
Miguel Lezama (Tanager Tours) — 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.
John Lowry (American Birding Association)
ABA sales and marketing manager John Lowry works with business, government, and non-profit partners to promote products and services to the birding community. John’s creativity, integrity, and extensive birding market knowledge ensure ABA customers maximize their investment while supporting the ABA mission. Whether feeder-watching at home, traveling to tanager-laden neo-tropical destinations, or scanning the budding oaks at a spring migration hotspot, John seeks the clarity, focus, meditative peace, and mental challenge of birding. John and his wife Karen live just north of Ann Arbor, Michigan where his office and audio production studio operate. Spotted Towhee was his best yard bird.
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.
Aidan Place (ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears Birding Team) – See Spotlight Speakers
Mark Prynoski (Florida Master Naturalist Program)
Since Mark’s retirement as a business manager for an environmental engineering firm, he has been focused on his first love: immersing himself in Florida’s ecosystems and passing what he has learned on to others. Mark is an Advanced Florida Master Naturalist and a past president of the Space Coast Master Naturalist Friends Group. Recently, he has begun helping to teach aspiring Master Naturalists as an assistant instructor for the program. Each month you can find him leading guided walks for EEL’s three education centers: Enchanted Forest, Sams House, and Barrier Island Sanctuary.
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.
Steve Shunk (Paradise Birding) – See Keynote Speakers
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 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
Emilie Travis (Ventures Birding Tours)
Emilie was first “taken by” birds while attending The University of Vermont, when a Double-Crested Cormorant fought back against being fit for a radio transmitter and “kissed” her lips. Over the past 16 years, Emilie’s assisted on bird banding projects in the northeast, midwest and southeast, gaining experience handling and identifying neotropical migrants and residential birds. She acquired her Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison studying the impact of communication towers to migratory birds. Emilie’s been guiding for Ventures Birding Tours since 2013 and now resides in Delray Beach to enjoy year-round birding opportunities.
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.
Graham Williams (St. Johns River Water Management District)
Graham is a Land Manager with the St Johns River Water Management District. He is responsible for the management of 10 conservation areas totaling over 80,000 acres in Orange, Seminole, Brevard, and Volusia Counties where he is charged with balancing public access and recreation with natural resource management activities. Keeping fire on the landscape is a top priority and Graham regularly employs prescribed burning as an important management tool. Prior to becoming a Land Manager, Graham spent time with the SJRWMD as a Land Management Specialist in north Florida, with the Florida Park Service as an Environmental Specialist II, and with the Seminole County Natural Lands Program. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned BS and MS degrees in Biology.
Sam Woods (Tropical Birding)
Sam’s unhealthy obsession for birds began with a pair of tits in a London park at age 11. He famously proclaimed the evening before “I’m not looking at birds; they’re boring”. Rarely have words haunted someone for so long. Sam was instantly hooked, starting off by spanning the British Isles in search of birds, which quickly expanded to the wider world, and has now traveled to all seven continents over the last thirty years. He has been working as a full-time guide for Tropical Birding since 2005, since when he has guided on six different continents. Sam attended Plymouth University in Devon (UK), getting a degree in Environmental Science, which led him to the Andes of Ecuador to undertake research on hummingbirds. This stoked an interest in the Americas; originally from the United Kingdom, he now resides in Ecuador (South America), but arguably spends just as much time overseas, as he does there. He is most at home, when he is away. Sam has also been a co-author on several books on Australian birds and wildlife. He uses a Swarovski scope and binoculars; Olympus camera.
Rick Zarwell (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures) – See Classroom Presenters
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.