2019 Speaker Series Schedule

Join us for the 2019 Speaker Series! 

Click here to check out the brochure or scroll down for more information!

Feb. 11 - Butterflies of Southwest Florida Feb. 19 - The Story of Ospreys
Feb. 26 - Water Quality Issues: Challenges & Solutions Mar. 5 - Wintering Shorebirds of Sanibel & Captiva
Mar. 11 - Florida Box Turtle Habitat Preference & Home Range on Sanibel Island Mar. 19 - The Story of Ospreys
Mar. 25 - Mollusks of Southwest Florida Apr. 1 - Paradise Lost: Impacts of Red Tide on Sanibel
Apr. 9 - Gopher Tortoises: Protecting a Keystone Species Apr. 16 - The Story of Ospreys

*These programs will feature Live Animal Encounters

Speaker Series Admission:
$10 per adult
$5 per 13-17 year old (teen)
Free for children 12 and under
All Programs begin at 4:15pm,
Check-in begins at 3:30pm
To register, please contact:
Visitor Education Center
phone: (239) 472-3644, ext. #229

Program Descriptions


February 19, March 19 & April 16

The Story of Ospreys

Presented by Claudia Burns, Volunteer for International Osprey Foundation

Ospreys are large brown and white raptors who breed in southwest Florida from December through April and can be seen diving for live fish in shallow waters throughout the area. Because they build their nests right out in the open, their behavior is easy to observe, but not always easy to understand. This presentation uses photos, videos and recorded vocalizations to explain osprey behavior.

Sanibel resident Claudia Burns has been a Nestwatch Volunteer for the International Osprey Foundation for more than 20 years. In the past she has partnered with Bird Westall to deliver this presentation at both the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and CROW. 


February 26

Water Quality Issues: Challenges & Solutions

Presented by J. Bruce Neill, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Executive Director for Sanibel Sea School

Dr. Neill will discuss the biology of plankton blooms such as red tide and blue-green algae, along with some of the ecological, social, and economic implications of our local water quality challenges. He will offer his perspective on why we have not made more progress toward solving this problem, and what citizens can do to encourage and support action for cleaner water on state, local, and national levels. 

Dr. Bruce Neill earned his Ph.D. in conservation biology from Montana State University. He has conducted research on coral reef biology and sea urchins, and has held positions at colleges, field schools, and the American Museum of Natural History. Neill's true passion is teaching - he and his wife, Evelyn, founded Sanibel Sea School in 2005 to help more people connect with the ocean through meaningful, field-based experiences. 


March 5

Wintering Shorebirds of Sanibel & Captiva

Presented by Audrey Albrecht, Shorebird Program Coordinator for Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF)

An in-depth look at the interesting life histories of some of the most commonly observed shorebirds on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Many species migrate thousands of miles each way to join us each winter. Learn about the threats they face across their range, and how the recent water quality crisis in southwest Florida has affected these birds. 

Audrey Albrecht is originally from Connecticut and has a bachelor's in science from the University of Rhode Island in Wildlife Conservation Biology and Management. She has worked with shorebirds for the last 13 years in various states for several agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, and USGS. 


March 11

Florida Box Turtle Habitat Preference & Home Range on Sanibel Island

Presented by Chris Lechowicz, Director of Habitat Management and Herpetologist for Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF)

Florida box turtles (Terrapene carolina bauri) are a small, long-lived (> 100 years) and semi-terrestrial species of turtle that are found throughout the peninsula of FL and on many islands off Florida. SCCF has been monitoring box turtles on Sanibel and Captiva, with a mark-recapture study, since 2002 and has over 350 turtles in its database. They just started a radio telemetry project to compare home ranges of Sanibel box turtles in three different habitats on the island as well as other island populations throughout the state.

Chris Lechowicz grew up with a passion for amphibians and reptiles which led him into a career in biology. Chris is the Director of the Wildlife & Habitat Management Program and staff herpetologist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation where he has worked for the last 14 years.   His current research projects on the islands involve eastern indigo snakes (Drymarchon couperi), diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), and Florida box turtles (Terrapene carolina bauri) in Pine Island Sound. Chris is also the coauthor of the book Amphibians and Reptiles of Sanibel & Captiva Islands: A Natural History. 


March 25

Mollusks of Southwest Florida

Presented by Leigh Gay, Education Coordinator for the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum

The National Shell Museum is the leading authority on Sanibel and Captiva shells, and its team offers insights into many of the shells that have played vital roles in history, culture, art and design. During this talk learn about the feeding strategies, reproduction, growth, and ecological importance of Southwest Florida’s mollusk species.

Leigh has a Bachelor's Degree in Zoology from NC State University, and is passionate about teaching Florida's people (of all ages!) about the mollusks that create sea shells, and how they are important to Florida's ecosystems. She loves birding, snorkeling, and of course... shelling! 


April 1 

Paradise Lost: Impacts of Red Tide on Sanibel

Presented by Heather W. Barron, DVM, Dipl. ABVP-avian, Medical and Research Director for CROW

In 2018, a severe red tide stretched along Florida’s west coast killing millions of animals and making hundreds more ill from brevetoxicosis. Join us at CROW for a discussion of these events, how the hospital staff managed these cases, and what CROW is doing to further research to be able to better help animals affected by red tide.

Dr. Heather Barron received training in exotic and wild animal medicine and surgery through a residency at the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she later became a tenured Associate Professor on the Zoological Medicine Service. She obtained further international experience as Professor and Department Head of Clinical Medicine at St. Matthew’s University, School of Veterinary Medicine in the Cayman Islands, where she was also the veterinarian for the Cayman Turtle Farm and Cayman Wildlife Rescue. She has served as a consultant for both IDEXX and Antech Imaging Services and is a former president of the Association of Avian Veterinarians. She is a board certified avian specialist and a licensed wildlife and sea turtle rehabilitator who has over 20 years of experience in practicing and teaching wildlife medicine. She has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific publications in her field.


April 9

Gopher Tortoises: Protecting a Keystone Species

Presented by Joel Caouette, Conservation Officer for the City of Sanibel

This presentation will cover gopher tortoise biology, habitat requirements, the City of Sanibel’s efforts to preserved and maintain viable gopher tortoise habitat, monitoring efforts, and the recently acquired gopher tortoise receptor site at Bowman’s Beach.

Joel Caouette graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation Biology from the University of Rhode Island in 2008.  After successfully completing several internships and seasonal positions in the wildlife field, Joel found his way to Sanibel Island in 2009 and again in 2010 assisting Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) staff in research and monitoring of Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus). At the completion of the 2010 Snowy Plover nesting season, Joel was hired as a full-time biologist at SCCF where his duties included surveys and monitoring of Sanibel Island’s wildlife such as Snowy Plovers, Bald Eagles, gopher tortoises, the Sanibel rice rat, and native fishes, in addition to vegetation surveys and assisting in land management duties like prescribed burns. In 2016 Joel began working for the City of Sanibel as a conservation officer where his day to day tasks include, environmental permitting, land management, and dealing with various other coastal and wildlife issues.