2022 Speaker Series


Welcome the 2022 Speaker Series


CROW is excited to announce the return of its seasonal “Speaker Series”! These weekly programs, offered January through April, host professionals from across Southwest Florida who engage, educate and entertain participants with information about local conservation initiatives.  

Historically, the Speaker Series has been offered physically within CROW’s visitor center, but, last year, it was modified as a virtual experience. This year, we have revived the physical offerings within CROW's Visitor Education Center or you can still attend virtually via ZOOM. 

For in person talks, please pay and register at CROW's Visitor Education Center. The select virtual Speaker Series events will be hosted via Zoom and advanced registration is REQUIRED. Physical and virtual presentations begin at 4:15pm and last approximately one hour. Admission for each device or person is $10 plus applicable taxes and fees.


To register for a virtual topic, click the green registration button in the topic's description below!



March 29 (IN PERSON)

What Makes Sanibel and the Surrounding Areas Unique

Presented by Captain Brian Holaway

Island ecosystems serve an important purpose. This talk will illuminate the importance of island ecosystems, why their protection is crucial, and why the waters, islands, shells, plants, marine life, wildlife, history and people of this area is unique to Southwest Florida. Captain Brian will also touch specifically on Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Cayo Costa and how they all help sustain healthy ecotourism, wildlife populations, and healthy environment overall.

About the Speaker:

Award Winning Guide Captain Brian Holaway has been guiding on Captiva Island since 1995.  He’s a local favorite offering private small boat charters to the islands off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida including Cayo Costa State Park, North Captiva, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island and Pine Island. Captain Brian is a certified Florida Master Naturalist, licensed USCG Captain, avocational photographer, seashell enthusiast, passionate about the history, people and culture of Southwest Florida.


April 5 (IN PERSON)

Mollusks of Southwest Florida

Presented by Dr. Jose Leal, Science Director and Curator 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.

About the Speaker:

Dr. José H. Leal was Director of the Shell Museum between February 1996 and August 2013, and is now its Science Director and Curator. Dr. Leal received his PhD in Marine Biology and Fisheries from the University of Miami. His love for shells and sea life goes back to his childhood years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dr. Leal also holds honorary faculty positions at the University of Miami and Florida Gulf Coast University, where he is an affiliate member of the Coastal Watershed Institute.


April 12 (VIRTUAL)

The Truth About Pollinator Declines

Presented by Mary Bammer, Instructional Designer for UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab

Gain the knowledge and appreciation necessary to become a ‘Speaker for the Bees’, or a one who advocates on the bees’ behalf. In this presentation you will be introduced to why bees are so important, the types of bees found in Florida, and simple steps you can take to support local bee populations. 

About the Speaker:

Mary Bammer develops and manages the HBREL's online Extension courses, including the UF/IFAS Master Beekeeper Program. She was formerly the lab's Extension coordinator and recently graduated from the University of Florida with a Master's in Extension education. Bammer works to bring top-notch honey bee education to beekeepers across Florida and around the world through targeted and effective distance education courses.

April 19 (IN PERSON)

The Effects of Water Mismanagement

Presented by Captain Chris Wittman, Co-founder, Director of Outreach and Engagement for Captains for Clean Water 

In 2016, a couple of fishing guides “had enough” of Florida’s poor water management practices devastating the estuaries we rely on and decided to create a nonprofit organization that fights to restore and protect our water resources. This talk will look at the advanced efforts and the fight to protect these valuable resources and the way of like for future generations. 


About the Speaker:

A fourth-generation Florida native, Captain Chris Wittman, co-founded Captains For Clean Water after witnessing the consequences of Florida’s water mismanagement. His extensive experience as a fishing and hunting guide, nationally renowned tournament angler, on-camera host and TV show producer allows him to engage leading brands and personalities across the industry and identify opportunities to expand the organization’s reach.


April 26 (IN PERSON)

Shy Wolf Sanctuary

Presented by Debbie LoVerde, Community Education Coordinator for Shy Wolf Sanctuary

Shy Wolf Sanctuary provides refuge and rehabilitation to non-releasable wild and captive-bred exotic canines, including wolves and wolfdogs. Their team works diligently to share the message of the preserving wolves in natural ecosystems, respecting wild and captive-bred exotics and encouraging coexistence with wildlife.

About the Speaker:

Debra LoVerde joined Shy Wolf Sanctuary in September of 2020 as the Community Education Coordinator. In her role with the organization, Debra is responsible for building relationships with organizations and communities to educate people about the work of the Sanctuary and to expand on the Healing Hearts Program. This program provides experiences for participants of partner organizations to learn how animals cope with a variety of stressful situations that may mirror those experiences in humans. She is developing a new initiative called “Tell me your Story” to empower children to speak up about the stresses they have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Debra holds a Doctorate in Education, with certifications as a school psychologist, elementary education instruction, and school administrator from her home state of New York. She has extensive experience in developing and managing special education programs.


*To register for in person talks, please contact:

Visitor Education Center
(239) 472-3644 ext. #229