Plenary Session Speakers
We have a fantastic line-up of speakers to kick-off each conference day. Read on for more information about our notable guests. Please refer to program guide on site for final times.
Invocation (Traditional Miccosukee Blessing)
Yahaletke/Houston R. Cypress | Miccosukee Tribe of Indians
Houston is a Two-Spirit Poet, Artist, and Activist from the Otter Clan of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. He resides on the Miccosukee Reservation located west of Miami, Florida. Houston maintains a number of traditional villages on tree islands scattered throughout Water Conservation Area 3A, the area known as the historic River of Grass and called Kahayatle by his community, which can be translated as "Shimmering Waters." He is committed to supporting his society of clans by assisting in cultural preservation, environmental protection, community outreach, business development, media & event production, and strengthening sovereignty.
Richard Spinrad, Ph.D. | Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
An internationally recognized scientist and executive with more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Spinrad is the senior scientist for NOAA, the agency driving policy and program direction for science and technology priorities. Until this appointment, Dr. Spinrad served as vice president for research at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, Oregon, and from 2003 until 2010 was the head of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the head of the National Ocean Service.
Among his accomplishments, Dr. Spinrad was a co-lead of the White House Committee that developed the nation’s first set of ocean research priorities and oversaw the revamping of NOAA’s research enterprise. He also served as the Department of Commerce representative to the Office of Science and Technology Policy committee addressing scientific integrity.
Dr. Spinrad spent two years as NOAA’s assistant administrator for oceanic services and coastal zone management, directing the agency’s navigation and coastal services, including the National Geodetic Survey, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Office of Coastal Resource Management. As part of his duties, he represented U.S. interests in the establishment of a global tsunami warning system.
Prior to joining NOAA, Dr. Spinrad served as a research director with the U.S. Navy (Office of Naval Research and Oceanographer of the Navy), where he was awarded the U.S. Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award (highest award given by the U.S. Navy to a civilian). He has held faculty appointments at three universities, directed a major national non-profit organization, presided over a private company, and worked as a research scientist. He also developed the National Ocean Sciences Bowl for high school students.
Dr. Spinrad served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. He is the recipient of Presidential Rank Awards from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama. Dr. Spinrad is past president of the Oceanography Society and was president-elect of the Marine Technology Society. He is also a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the Marine Technology Society, and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
Dr. Spinrad received his bachelor of arts degree in earth and planetary sciences from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his master of science and doctoral degrees in oceanography from Oregon State University.
Rolling Shark Panel
Jim Wharton | Director of Conservation & Education, Seattle Aquarium | @jimwharton
George H. Burgess | Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and Curator of the International Shark Attack File & International Sawfish Encounter Database, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida | @UFSharkResearch
Brett McBride | Fishing Master & Co-Captain, Ocearch | @OCEARCH
Sonja Fordham | Founder & President, Shark Advocates International | @SharkAdvocates
Robert Hueter, Ph.D. | Associate Vice President for Research, Senior Scientist, Director of the Center for Shark Research, Perry W. Gilbert Chair in Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory
David Shiffman | Shark conservation Ph.D. candidate & science communicator, University of Miami | @WhySharksMatter
Vicky Vásquez | Graduate student, Pacific Shark Research Center & Deputy Director, Ocean Research Foundation | @VickyV_TeamORF
Sea turtles as science ambassadors: connecting technology, oceanography, and manicurists to understand the sea turtle “lost years”
Kate L. Mansfield, Ph.D. | Director, Marine Turtle Research Group, University of Central Florida | @UCFTurtleLab
Florida plays an enormous role in the lives of Atlantic sea turtles. Coastal beaches are where we are most likely to experience a sea turtle, their tracks in the sand, or the nests they leave behind. Yet, sea turtles spend most of their time far from their terrestrial nesting habitats. Due to their biology and complex life cycle, there are many things we still have yet to discover about these creatures. Understanding sea turtle behavior at all stages of their lives, including the juvenile or “lost years,” is critical for ensuring the conservation and survival of these threatened and endangered species.
The University of Central Florida’s Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG) is one of the oldest field-based sea turtle research programs in the world. The MTRG has 35+ years of involving the public and students of all ages in hands-on sea turtle conservation to promote species conservation and science engagement. With beach work on the most important nesting beaches in the Western Hemisphere, to coastal and offshore in-water work, the MTRG now studies turtles from eggs to “adulthood”. Recent work by the MTRG connects innovative uses of novel technologies, combined with ocean modeling, and a little help from a local manicurist to better understand the elusive sea turtle “lost years”. This work is making waves in how we perceive sea turtle biology and conservation on a global scale and in inspiring the next generation of researchers in marine science.
Dr. Kate Mansfield (@UCFTurtleLab) is an Assistant Professor and head of the Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG) in the Biology Department at the University of Central Florida. She has worked with sea turtles since 1994 including more than a decade of nesting beach experience and over 17 years of in-water sea turtle handling and tagging experience using satellite, radio and acoustic telemetry to track all life stages of sea turtle.
Dr. Mansfield was a member of the most recent Loggerhead Turtle Expert Working Group, was Virginia’s state sea turtle stranding coordinator for seven years, and is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Her research focuses on sea turtle biology, ecology, behavior, and conservation across all life stages of sea turtle. Dr. Mansfield's recent projects include testing and deploying small-scale, solar-powered satellite tags on young, oceanic stage (“lost years”) sea turtles with the goal of describing early sea turtle dispersal and habitat use.
Songs and Stories of our National Parks
Megan Davenport and Gary Bremen | Rangers, Biscayne National Park | @BiscayneNPS
National Parks are best known for wildlife and scenery, but the reasons parks matter go far beyond the tangible. From Yellowstone to Hawai’i Volcanoes, Gettysburg to Biscayne, national parks are deeply powerful places that impact people in extraordinary ways. Join Biscayne National Park Rangers Megan Davenport and Gary Bremen as they celebrate the National Park Service Centennial by blending music and storytelling to share deeply personal experiences from national parks across the nation.
Gary Bremen is a native South Floridian. As a boy, his parents took him to places with names like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Carlsbad, and in so doing, set him on a career path as a National Park Ranger. Thirty years into that career (with 20 years of that being at Biscayne National Park), he still finds enormous satisfaction in discovering the lesser-known aspects of the world around him. He is the recipient of the National Park Service’s Freeman Tilden award for excellence in interpretation and the Crystal Owl award for training excellence, as well as a special award from the United States Coral Reef Task Force for his efforts to educate South Floridians about the park and its inhabitants. A graduate of the University of Miami, he lives in the little town of Wilton Manors with his partner Roger and their cats Neko, Oliver, Elliott and Murphy.
Megan Davenport found her first home with the National Park Service at Biscayne National Park after completing a Masters of Professional Science from University of Miami, studying tropical marine biology. A native of New Jersey, she is passionate about studying, protecting, and educating about the incredible wildlife, landscapes, and history that our Parks preserve. She is the lead singer in a country band, and loves nothing more than getting the chance to combine her two passions of music and nature. She lives with her two dogs in a camper in the Park, and is ready to take this show on the road with a long and exciting Park Service career.
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