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Explorers Club Florida Chapter News

Stay updated with the latest exciting news on scientific and exploration projects from the members of the Florida Explorers Club chapter.

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Alison Ormsby FN’02 to Present at Eckerd College – Sacred Groves of Sierra Leone and India

Alison Ormsby, PhD., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, will present findings from her 2012 research expedition to study the sacred groves of Sierra Leone. Joined by Ms.  Sierra Voss, Environmental Studies major and Ford Scholar, Dr. Ormsby focuses on culture-driven protection of  sensitive lands in this exclusive presentation and photography show.

The show will be open to the public from October 12 to 24, 2012.

Opening reception:  Sunday, October 14 from 5-7pm
Gallery talk:  Monday Oct. 15 at 7:30pm in Cobb Gallery.

Show Description:

Sacred groves are small forested areas that have cultural or spiritual significance to local communities.  Thisphotography show and lecture covers research conducted in both India andSierra Leone about sacred groves.  In India, often residents believe that agod lives in the forest.  Protecting the forest is a form of respect for the god, and if the forest is harmed, the god may punish the transgressor by making them sick or even die.  In Sierra Leone, sacred groves are associated with secret societies and are often where key cultural events occur, including initiation into the secret societies.  Alison Ormsby is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Eckerd College and was a Fulbright-Nehru scholar in India from October 2009 to May 2010.  Sierra Voss is an Environmental Studies major at Eckerd College.  Voss and Ormsby conducted research on the sacred groves of Sierra Leone in the summer of 2012.

More about Dr. Alison Ormsby [click here]

Directions to Eckerd College Campus [click here].
For more information, contact [email protected]

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Scott Pearlman Field Awards

The Scott Pearlman Field Awards is looking for professionals to follow our scientists onto the ice, into the bush, or under the sea, to record and document Explorers Club research expeditions.

The Scott Pearlman Field Awards for Science and Exploration provides grants to artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, and media journalists to record and document field research led by members of The Explorers Club. It is not necessary to be a member to apply, but new membership is welcome. Grants are awarded to those with an interest in field research and the skills to provide reproduction quality materials for print or electronic media. For more information, contact your local Explorers Club Chapter Chairman to see if there’s an expedition now forming that might need you, or visit our website, to download the grant criteria and application. Click Expeditions> Grants and Funding> Pearlman Awards.

Joseph Meehan, expedition photographer; Narwhal Tooth Expedition, led by Dr. Martin T. Nweeia, FN.

Previous Award Recipients:
Lonnie Dupre, Michelle Westmoreland, Karen Huntt, Joseph Meehan, Anne Doubilet, Eugenie Clark, Katie Clancy, Ellis Ga, Kate Harris, Alison Jones, Peter Berman, Greg Deyermenjian, Lawrence Millman.
Add your name here.


Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Explorer Spotlight: Bruce Means, PhD

The term ‘diverse’ doesn’t begin to cover the breadth and depth of curiosity engrained within most explorers. One such explorer and member of The Explorers Club Florida Chapter, is research ecologist D. Bruce Means, PhD FN’07. Dr. Means is President and Executive Director of the Coastal Plains Institute and Adjunct Professor at Florida State University. His research and exploration portfolio is enough to make the likes of Indiana Jones just a bit envious.

From Dr. Means’ web site:

Dr. Bruce Means is President and Executive Director of the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization he and others founded in 1984 that is dedicated to conserving the rich biodiversity–and elevating public awareness and appreciation–of the vast Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. He is an Adjunct Professor of Biological Science at Florida State University where he has taught courses the ecology of upland, wetland, and coastal environments of the southeastern U. S. and courses on vertebrate biology, ichthyology, mammalogy, herpetology, general biology, tropical ecology, and conservation biology. His research includes a wide variety of topics ranging from ecosystems of the southeastern U. S. to fire ecology, the natural history of South American tepuis, biogeography, conservation, endangered species, and the evolution and natural history of amphibians and reptiles.

Dr. Means has published more than 270 scientific articles, technical reports, and popular articles on his research in National Wildlife, International Wildlife, Natural History, BBC Wildlife, National Geographic, Fauna, South American Explorer, and other magazines. His books include two on the ecology of Florida and “Stalking the Plumed Serpent and Other Adventures in Herpetology.” From 1998 to the present, he and his research have been featured in documentary films for National Geographic Television (King Rattler; Quest for the Rainbow Serpent; Into the Lost World; Saving the King of Snakes; Diamondback Survivors, etc.), BBC Television, and PBS. Bruce Means lives in Tallahassee and relishes his time in the woodlands, swamps, and bogs of the Florida Panhandle—and making expeditions into the vast wilderness of northeastern South America.

Regarding the prehistoric and fascinating tepuis structures in Guyana, National Geographic author Brian Handwerk wrote that early explorers spoke of mysterious mesa style mountains towering above South America’s jungle. Such stories inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Lost World, a novel set in an isolated place still inhabited by dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were fiction. But the mountains are real—and they are a link to Earth’s prehistoric past. This is the location for Nat Geo’s Into the Lost World, featuring Dr. Means. “I’ve been to the Galápagos,” Dr. Means said, “and these high-altitude mesas are at least as good as the Galápagos in terms of the archaeology as an archipelago of evolutionary activity. But they haven’t been well promoted in the scientific community or in popular knowledge.”

Dr. Means returns to South America in June 2012 on a two-month expedition funded by the National Geographic Exploration Council to continue his research in this ecological hotspot. In his project proposal, Dr. Means writes, “Few places exist on earth where dozens of vertebrate animals remain to be discovered.  The Pakaraima Mountains of west-central Guyana are possibly the richest, recently discovered biodiversity hotspot.  Just in the first decade of the 21st Century, no fewer than…” [continue reading]

Since 1999, Dr. Means has produced documentaries with PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic, has authored books on southeastern US coastal environments and reptiles, and has conducted research on the impact of prescribed burns on reptiles and amphibians. In addition to his dedicated work in ecology, Dr. Means leads natural history tours through Australia, South Africa, Belize, and the Galapagos Islands.

As lecture topics go, Dr. Means offers an exciting list of exploration and ecological talks, so rest assured that you’ll see his name as a guest presenter in the Florida Chapter’s coming events season.

Dr. Means can be reached through his web site at or by email at [email protected].

Related Interesting Links:
National Geographic Documentary Clip
Lecture Topics
Books Published
CPI Research Projects
Photo Collections

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

NEW! Events Photo Gallery

Just when you think you’ve seen it all!  We expanded the Florida Chapter PHOTO GALLERY page to include images from the last nine events attended by our members. Keep an eye on this page as ECAD 2012 pictures will be posted before you know it!

If you have any photos you’d like to include in the Photo Gallery, just send an email to [email protected] and we’ll post or add your photos to an already published album.

Other recent web site updates:
Members’ Expeditions
Contact Us
Explorer Resources

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp Event Recap

More than one dozen club members and guests representing four chapters gathered at the Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the Florida Everglades for a nighttime boardwalk stroll and fireside expedition stories.  The crisp, damp January night air created a scene right out of a spooky movie set as we double checked our flashlights, then gathered near a 15′ aluminum pole bedecked with two long, inverted canisters.  Aiming our lights upward into the canisters, we noticed the flash of many beady black eyes staring back into our light. Bats. The bat house is home to more than twenty of the insect eaters, which serve as natural mosquito control.

During daylight hours, Corkscrew is teeming with wildlife.  But at night, it’s a different type of wild. As we entered the woods, we chanced upon a thick cloud of flitting long-winged Zebra Butterflies taking their place on a favorite roosting tree branch.  Twilight gave way to darkness as we reached the heart of the Sanctuary.  Our small lights skimmed along bases of the old-growth cypress trees standing firm in black water, as we searched for the swamp’s fishing spiders.  Dr. Mike Knight (FN’07), a land manager for the Sanctuary and invasive species task force leader, explained that several of the Sanctuary’s old-growth cypress trees date back to the time Columbus discovered the New World.

Reaching a somewhat open body of water, we aimed our lights to the far side of the pond.  The unmistakable flash of a dozen alligator eyes let us know that we weren’t alone.  Making our way out of the cypress trees, we arrived at an area where the wetlands meet the dry pine forest. A natural ribbon of wet prairie land stands between the two forests, serving as a kind of mediator between two giants.  Dr. Knight describes these ribbons of grassland as essential to the survival of both ecosystems.

After our time on the boardwalk, the group made its way to the fire pit, then pulled out chairs, drinks, and snacks. The blaze created a mesmerizing glow which warmed our feet and encouraged us to share our stories.

The Chapter was able to cover event expenses and make a $50 gift to the Audubon Society for our use of their facilities, thanks to your donations.  This event’s success ensures that we’ll have another similar to it in the future.   If you have an event idea, we want to hear it!  CLICK HERE to submit your idea.

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Brevard Zoo Event Recap

We’re all familiar with large scale volunteer projects like Habitat for Humanity homes, but did you know that one project holds the distinction of being the single largest volunteer building project in the US?  Brevard Zoo holds that distinction, and stands in dedication to the many volunteers who built the facility.  As a popular and ever-expanding attraction on Florida’s Space Coast, Brevard Zoo’s unwavering commitment to education and community outreach is evident by the place it holds in the hearts of local children and the corporate support it receives.

On November 5, 2011, members and guests of The Explorers Club’s Florida Chapter were treated to a Day at the Brevard Zoo.  A few members started their morning kayaking through an up-close wildlife encounter.  Approaching storms pushed this excursion into uncharted natural canals teeming with rotund manatees, which created a bump and tip hazard.  The explorers came upon a small body of water apparently popular with the manatees, and after a bit of vegetation identification, the spot was named ‘Loo Lagoon’.   Other event attendees took the option to zipline through the Zoo, hanging high above monkey cages, but just slightly above a naturally clear pool littered with alligators.

To hear Chris DeLorey talk about the Zoo’s collection of White Rhinos is like listening to someone describe the antics of their beloved dogs.  Rhinos at Brevard Zoo, like all other animals in their collection, are handled with positive reinforcement, so the animals look forward to human interaction.  The Zoo’s rhinos really are like puppies; they crave affection, will poke at one another to compete for attention and food, and they love a good scratch on the back.  The group enjoyed a dirty session of rhino petting and scratching, just before lunch.

During our rhino encounter, the group was joined by Adam, a Zoo employee.  When he was just eight years old, Adam began visiting the Zoo as part of the Zoo’s educational outreach program and partnership with the local school district.  Adam volunteered at the Zoo early in his teens, and realized that working with animals was his life’s passion.  Twelve years later, Adam is now a full time employee at the Zoo, engaging with groups and working daily with the animals.

After a catered lunch, the visiting members held an informal meeting which included a message from our Chapter Chairman.  Afterward, we went off to visit the new animal hospital facility and commissary, for now under construction – but this means that we must visit again next year when construction is complete.  The group was amazed by the Zoo’s barn, which stands more than 18 feet in height and serves as a hurricane shelter for the Zoo’s giraffe herd.

Saving the best for last, we enjoyed a presentation by Chris DeLorey, Education Director at Brevard Zoo and Explorers Club Member.  Chris presented findings from his expedition to Wyoming’s Dana Quarry and shared with us a number of impressive dinosaur claws found at the site.  He indicated that a number of common dinos we grew up with were recently renamed or proven to never have existed.  Brevard Zoo will open a Dinosaur Animatronics exhibit early in 2012, and the community eagerly awaits its arrival.

If you missed this year’s Day at the Zoo, rest assured, you’ll have another opportunity in the coming year. Continue checking the Florida Chapter web site for upcoming events.

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Mote Labs & Aquarium Tour Recap

If mid-century era media has it right, in 1952 most American women were preoccupied with mixing a husband’s perfect 5 o’clock martini and achieving a fantastically rigid up-do.  But molds are meant to be broken and Eugenie Clark had her mind on other things.  In the 1950′s, when California’s Scripps Institute began testing dive gear, Dr. Clark (Medalist’85) was there and took the plunge.   As Col. William Royal, then owner of North Port, Florida’s Warm Mineral Springs, first descended into the Spring to collect human remains and ancient artifacts, Dr. Clark was there and among the first into the Spring.   With a fascination for all things aquatic, Professor Ginnie Clark is a pioneer in marine science and exploration – and she is the founder of MOTE LABS & AQUARIUM in Sarasota, FL.  We caught up with her at the lab, in an office lined with sharks’ jaws and scientific publications, and a door laquered with diving stickers.

Nearly one dozen Florida Chapter Explorers Club members and guests were treated to a presentation by and discussion with local shark expert, Dr. Nick Whitney.  We learned of Mote’s engagement in shark research using telemetry technology similar to that used in iPhones, to determine how sharks mate and wander through the water.  Future research using similar tracking devices will soon take place on sturgeon fish in the Suwanee River and area manta rays.

Jim Culter (FN’97), a Senior Scientist at Mote, shared an overview of relevant dates in diving history and his insight on diving the deep Blue Holes of the Gulf of Mexico.  After the presentations, the group trekked through the Lab’s Seahorse Hatchery where we viewed a fresh batch of seahorses born on the morning of our visit. Stopping by the shark tank, a few brave explorers made their way onto thin walkways extending over the open tank were we fed the tank’s inhabitants. Other highlights of the tour included a visit with an almost-healthy dolphin, the intimate and mesmerizing aquarium, and the critter kitchen, where this explorer learned tips on feeding romaine lettuce to her own fish at home.  A number of members obtained personally autographed copies of Dr. Clark’s recent book, The Lady and the Sharks (click here for an overview).

Our Chapter events are designed to appeal to our members’ sense of adventure, science, and exploration. Our tour of Mote left those senses well satisfied. Please join us for upcoming events.  The discussion, sharing of ideas, and learning about research happening within our area helps keep exploration alive!

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Events Season 2011-12 Now Posted!

The summer has seen many of our busy Florida Chapter Members doing what they do best – exploring!  Your esteemed Chapter Executive Committee has planned many events designed to appeal to your sense of adventure and exploration – those characteristics which brought you to the Explorers Club.  Each event is a celebration of your achievements, collaboration with fellow explorers, and a chance to interact with the curious public.

We understand that exploration is an undying drive within each of us – come share in the drive that pushes only a select few of us to explore the very edge of mankind’s knowledge.

This season’s events are listed in the Member Info area.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Event: Navy Experimental Dive Unit-Deep Diving School Tour

February 18, 2011 – PANAMA CITY, FL,  Hosted by Bob Barth MN

This is a very special trip for our Explorer Club members and guests.  An all day behind the scenes tour of the US Navy Experimental Dive Unit and the Navy Deep Diving School hosted by Bob Barth who retired from the Navy as a Diver at the Unit.  The tour is on Friday February 18, 2011 and on Saturday several member of the Florida Chapter are going to dive on the USS Oriskany off Pensacola, FL.

For more information, contact Jim Thompson at [email protected] or by phone at 727 424 2000.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Deep Sky Astronomy Program – January 28, 2011

Join us for an exciting evening of space exploration. Using large telescopes and guided by members of the local astronomy club we should be able to observe nebulae, dark matter, other galaxies, various planets, the moon, and much more. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where this event is held, is one of the few areas of southern Florida relatively free of light pollution, making exploration by telescope a possibility. Come explore the heavens!

Event – Deep Sky Astronomy Program
Where – Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
When – 7:00pm, Friday, January 28th
How to get there – from I75 take Exit 111 (Immokalee Rd), proceed EAST on Immokalee Rd for approximately 15 miles, shortly after road narrows to 2 lanes there will be a large curve to the right, at the end of this bend there will be a turn lane to make a LEFT turn onto Sanctuary Rd (look for the Corkscrew Swamp sign), follow Sanctuary Rd to the end (paved road, approx. 1.5mi), turn into the gates for National Audubon Society – Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, we will meet in the center of the parking area.

If you are a lousy explorer/navigator and happen to get lost, please contact Mike Knight at 239-580-9461