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W.O.W.E Presenters

Tiffany Kersten

Tiffany Kersten is a Wisconsin native, turned Texan by way of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. She holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Northland College, and has spent over a decade as an environmental educator, teaching about raptor identification and migration with the Cape May Bird Observatory, monitoring shorebirds on Cape Cod, banding Honeycreepers in Hawaii, and finally landing in South Texas where she worked at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, then Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center, and managed the McAllen Nature Center, before founding her own company, Nature Ninja Birding Tours.

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Jonathan Wood

The Raptor Projects is an extraordinary and outstanding array of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls that have won the rapt attention of enthralled audiences throughout the nation. Presenting almost 1000 educational programs to over 10 million people annually, The Raptor Project leads the way in outstanding, top quality, professional wildlife education. Featuring 15-20 raptors from diverse habitats at each presentation, these dynamic fierce predators capture hearts of both young and old.The Raptor Project founders, Jonathan and Susan Wood of New York's Catskill mountains have assembled a traveling collection of feathered predators that is unrivaled in scope and size anywhere in the world. Jonathan Wood is a Master Falconer and Wildlife Rehabilitation, bringing unique insights, observations and humor to his exciting, riveting, nationally acclaimed shows. Many of the birds in The Raptor Project have permanent handicaps and have been donated to his project by crowded wildlife centers around the country because they were unable to be re-introduced to the wild. Some faced euthanization and now have been tamed and trained to educate the public as charming ambassadors of their species and the environments they inhabit. Jonathan and Susan Wood and their staff operate the organization from a beautiful 14 acre, private facility in New York's Catskill mountains. All birds are housed, exercised and cared for in spacious, state of the art aviaries.Jonathan Wood works with birds in a wide rage of sizes. From small falcons and owls weight 3-4 ounces to majestic eagles with 6-8 foot wingspans. He is honored with 35 years of handling experience and has produced and presented The Raptor Project to over 10 million people... up close and personal!

David DeLeon

David has devoted the majority of his adult life to the outdoors. Depending on the time of the year you can find him on the Texas coast or on a ranch in the South Texas brush country.

For the last 14 years David has sat on the Coastal Conservation Association Rgv directors board. During his presidency 2020 - 2022 he was nominated to join the Texas STAR CCA released team.

Dr. David Hicks

Marine / Estuarine Ecologist and Quantitative Biologist. Dr. Hicks specializes in the biology, ecology, physiological ecology and environmental biology of estuarine and marine invertebrates, particularly mollusks and corals. Additionally, he has expertise in experimental design and analyses of biological data. Current research projects range from the restoration of Bahia Grande in the lower Rio Grande Valley, to evaluation of beach management practices on South Padre Island, to monitoring invertebrate and fish community dynamics on natural and artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Port Isabel High School Coastal Monitoring

The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program engages people who live along the coast in the study of their natural environment.  High School students, teachers, and scientists work together to gain a better understanding of dune and beach dynamics on the Texas coast.  Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology (Bureau) provide the tools and training needed for scientific investigation.  Students and teachers learn how to measure the topography, map the vegetation line and shoreline, and observe weather and wave conditions. 

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John Yochum - Texas Parks & Wildlife

John Yochum hails from Hicksville, Ohio, but got to Texas as soon as he could (Thanksgiving 2006)! He has since been employed by Texas Parks & Wildlife as a Park Ranger, first at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in Mission and currently at Estero Llano State Park in Weslaco. When not exploring the great birds, butterflies, dragonflies, plants, herps, mammals, etc., of South Texas, he spends time with his spouse of 30 years, a dog, three parrots (an African Grey, a Red-crown, and a Blue-and-gold MaCaw) and his wild jungle of a yard. 

Jake Reinbolt

Jacob Reinbolt, graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation before becoming employed by Gator Country in Louisiana.  He transferred here in early September to care for our alligators and other reptiles and to share his passion for these animals with our guests.  He delivers alligator shows daily at 11,1:30, and 3:30 to educate the public about these amazing animals, their role in the environment, and how we can coexist with them by behaving safely.

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Javier Gonzalez

Javier is the Naturalist Educator at our host site, The South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center. He is a biologist, avid naturalist, and photographer. He has a special interest in birds, butterflies, habitat ecology, and pollinator conservation and loves to share his knowledge with visitors to the center. He will be a guide on most of the field tours taking place. 

Lee Bragg

Originally from Wisconsin Lee works as a biological technician at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Brownsville, Texas. Lee has had the great pleasure to have worked in natural sources at five different National Park sites: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California, Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Southern Utah. A birder, Lee enjoys exploring the Rio Grande Valley and all its wonderful creatures and plants!

Dr. Sandra Rideout-Hanzak

Sandra Rideout-Hanzak received her Ph.D. in Forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2001.  Sandra then began a post-doc position as a research forester with the USDA Forest Service at their Southern Research Station in Athens, GA and later Clemson, SC.  In 2005, Sandra joined the faculty at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  She was appointed to the faculty at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2010 where she is currently a professor and research scientist in the Department of Animal, Rangeland and Wildlife Sciences and Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, respectively. 

As a researcher, Sandra has explored such topics as effects of prescribed burning in various seasons on native grasses in the Coastal Marshes and Prairies and Southern Great Plains ecosystems of Texas; wildfire effects on vegetation, soil erosion, and avian communities; restoration of endangered slender rush-pea habitat; fire effects on hedgehog cactus varieties; and fire effects in southern pine, Piedmont, and Appalachian ecosystems.  Currently, Sandra is studying restoration methods of thornscrub plants for ocelot habitat, and season of prescribed burning effects on vegetation ecology and butterfly populations in southern coastal Texas.

Sandra is a certified Professional Wildland Fire Ecologist, and a founding member of the Association for Fire Ecology.  She is also a Lead Burn Instructor for the Texas Certified and Insured Prescribed Burn Manager Program.

Justin LeClaire

Justin is part of CBBEP’s Coastal Bird Program. Based in Corpus Christi, he manages rookery islands for declining colonial nesting waterbirds, monitors shorebird productivity at various important breeding sites, and assists in the field with numerous other important avian research projects. Justin grew up in Vermont and received a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology at the University of Vermont. His passion for wildlife conservation and the outdoors led him to work in the wildlife field in five different states before landing in South Texas in 2016. He has also dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to various wildlife research projects, habitat restoration, wildlife rescues, and outdoor education.

Dr. Amy Bonka

Amy was named Chief Conservation Officer for Sea Turtle Inc. in 2020. With extensive sea turtle nesting, sea turtle research, and community building experience, Amy will play a significant role in sea turtle conservation.  As the organization’s first Chief Conservation Officer, she will lead the conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles and grow Sea Turtle Inc.’s research program.

Before the call into the nonprofit role, Amy excelled in academia. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in marine science. Following graduation, Amy spent several nesting seasons working with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. Inspired by this work to focus on the Kemp’s ridley during graduate school studies, she obtained her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research has focused on the ecology, biology, and conservation of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, Texas’s state sea turtle! Her research interests include the dynamics of arribada nesting, the mass nesting events that occur in Kemp’s ridley (and Olive ridley) sea turtles, as well as hatchling biology.

Dr. Sharon Wilcox

Dr. Sharon Wilcox serves as Senior Texas Representative for the national conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife. In this role, she leads Defenders' ocelot conservation program. Sharon also serves on the board of directors for the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. She is the co-editor of the book, Historical Animal Geographies (2018), and has authored a number of scholarly articles and book chapters examining contemporary and historical interactions of humans and wild cats in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

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Marilyn Lorenz

Marilyn has been a naturalist all her life but could not devote the time she wanted to until she retired from the University of Connecticut. An ongoing quest of visiting every National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. has greatly increased her knowledge of birds and other wildlife and moving to South Texas has opened a whole new world. Earning her Texas Master Naturalist status has focused her in the right directions and she is now a guide at the SPI Birding Center and the Laguna Vista Nature Trail and offers presentations on Valley wildlife using her late husband's photos. She is a regular contributor to SPI Parade and Valley Star and a participant in The RGV Birdfest, as well as WOWE.

Clint Guadiana

Clint Guadiana is the Curator of Herpetology and Chief Safety Officer at the Gladys Porter Zoo, where he has worked since 2010. He currently oversees the day-to-day maintenance of over 400 reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. When he’s not wrangling reptiles, he oversees the safety of the zoo, which is certainly a unique set of responsibilities. Clint has been involved in research projects focused on reptiles and amphibians -- both in the wild and in captivity.

Before joining the Gladys Porter Zoo, Clint worked at the Phoenix Herpetological Society in Arizona, where he was in charge of 150 venomous snakes and lizards. Known as a “Snake Buster,” in the Phoenix area, he would frequently remove nuisance reptiles from people’s residences or businesses.

Clint makes himself available whenever possible to help promote an understanding of local reptiles and amphibians.

Anita Westervelt

Anita Westervelt, a freelance photojournalist who has written a newspaper nature column for the McAllen Monitor for seven years. Anita is the author of Anita's Blog, a look at the natural world of the Rio Grande Valley, for the past eight years. She has acquired over 6,600 volunteer hours as a South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalist. Anita holds a Fine Arts degree from the University of Maryland, European Division, and a Communication Degree from Pittsburg State University. She has been intrigued with plants since early childhood and, prior to retirement, photographed flora wherever she was deployed as a U.S. Navy Chief Journalist.

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Shane Wilson

Shane Wilson is a resident of South Padre Island and a retired school teacher from the Point Isabel School District. Shane founded Fishing Future in 2007 on South Padre Island and today sports more than 60 chapters scattered across 19 states. They are growing nationally and recently recognized and the #1 Aquatics Education Program in America. He will be teaching surf fishing techniques required to successfully fish the local waters.

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