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W.W.E Presenters

Scott Harris

Keynote Speaker


Scott Harris and his wife Randi retired to South Carolina in March of 2020-something Scott will tell you was one of the best decisions they have made in their 44 years of marriage. It was also when he first started birding – a hobby he never imagined himself participating in, but now can’t imagine living without.

They sold their long-time home and business, Mustang Marketing, a marketing/branding company they had owned for 35 years. They are blessed that both their children and their grandson are also in South Carolina.

While in California, Scott had a syndicated newspaper column and two weekly radio shows. He and his son Justin also hosted a Los Angeles Dodgers weekly live radio show. Scott sat on dozens of boards over the years, including Boys & Girls Club, United Way, The Sheriff’s Foundation, Pepperdine University, Moorpark College and California State University Northridge.

In the month before leaving Ventura County, Scott was honored as Man of the Year, with his company having won Business of the Year two years previously. His interests and hobbies include the largest collection of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in the world, playing harmonica in a blues band for five years and he has written almost fifty books in the past six years - though the one he’ll be discussing today is his first entrée into the world of birding and birds.

That book, RaptorQuest: Chasing America’s Raptors, is the story of his year-long adventure tracking down every species of Raptor in the Lower 48 states. And today, we’ll learn about his adventures, misadventures, successes and failures.

Jonathan Wood

The Raptor Project

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!

Andy Grunwald

Laguna Atascosa NWR Biologist

Habitat Management, Wildlife Conservation, and Research at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

I am the Wildlife Biologist of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which is a 120,000 acre Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the RGV. Although I was born and raised in Wisconsin, I came to the RGV after finishing my Bachelor's Degree in 2015 to intern at Laguna Atascosa and fell in love with the Refuge and the surrounding area. After that internship I traveled around the country for a variety of temporary wildlife conservation jobs and got my Master's Degree at Clemson University before my life came full circle and I landed my dream job at Laguna Atascosa. My job at the Refuge is focused on habitat management to conserve our priority species, which include aplomado falcon, ocelot, neotropical migratory birds, mottled ducks, and wintering waterfowl.

Lynn Seman

Horned Lizard Conservation Society

Texas Horned Lizard - Iconic Texas Reptile

Lynn Seman is currently a certified Texas Master Naturalist since 2006 and the Membership Services Officer for the Horned Lizard Conservation Society since 2017. She has a Masters degree in Multidisciplinary Science from Texas Tech University. Lynn loves being outdoors, surveying for horned lizards, and sharing nature with the community as a volunteer for several non-profit agencies in the Rolling Plains Region of Texas.

Chery Brummett

RGV Pollinator Project

Nectar Ninjas: Become a Backyard Pollinator Hero

Chery Brummett, a photographer, conservationist, and Texas Master Naturalist, actively contributes to monarch butterfly conservation through citizen science initiatives. Witnessing the lack of habitat for the monarch migration during the butterfly tagging season, Chery co-founded the Rio Grande Valley Pollinator Project with like-minded individuals to address habitat loss concerns. The project has heightened pollinator awareness, advocated for native-plant ecosystems, engaged in community outreach, and rescued/relocated Zizotes Milkweed in the RGV. Securing a grant from Monarch Watch, they distributed milkweed plugs across various locations across the valley. Chery dedicates herself to pollinator and habitat conservation through photography, advocacy, and community engagement.

Charles Alexander

Wild Parrots of the Rio Grande Valley

Charles will share stories from his wild parrot research in the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas. Since 2012, his ongoing study across the Valley’s urban environment, just a few miles from the Mexican border, has revealed a surprising and colorful world of close-knit parrot families, territorial rivalries, single fathers raising babies, and astonishing mutations. Over the years, Charles has searched for Valley hotspots where the social lives and breeding behavior of native green parakeets and red-crowned parrots are best observed, getting to know and recognize individual parrot personalities. Time and again, the Valley’s wild parrots have demonstrated their compelling strategies for surviving and thriving within the man-made jungle. Following the free-wheeling flocks year after year has proven to be among the artist’s greatest adventures.

Port Isabel High School Coastal Monitoring

Coastal Monitoring Program

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. 

Dr. Amy Bonka

Sea Turtle Inc. Chief Conservation Officer

Sea Turtle Conservation

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.

John Yochum -

Park Ranger at Estero Llano Grande State Park

Butterflies & Dragonflies of the RGV

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. 

Captain Augustus McGarraugh

Capt Gus's Salt Water Adventures

Saltwater Adventures

Hello everyone! My name is Capt. Gus McGarraugh. I have lived back and forth from Colorado to South Texas my entire life. My father moved to the island when I was a boy teaching me the ins and outs of the bay every summer throughout my childhood. We spent countless hours finding pot holes full of trout and sand flats littered in red fish. He instilled in me a passion for the outdoors, driving me to pursue a career chasing the critters I have come to love and respect. With the help of some local legends including forty year veteran Capt. Skipper Ray, I have honed my skills as a fishermen and professional guide on South Padre island in the Lower Laguna Madre. The bay provides an incredible environment to learn and grow. Every day we find new places to fish and duck hunt and I welcome you on this incredible adventure I have embarked on. During the fall I head north to Crawford, Colorado to team up with the Homestead Ranch Crew to chase elk, deer, mountain lion and bear. Homestead Ranch is an original homestead that the McLeod's have maintained since 1914. Six generations of incredible perseverance has built the hunting experience of a lifetime. I am truly honored to have been able to be a part of this team for the last few years. Whether it is inshore or off shore fishing, duck or goose hunting, or the big game hunt of your dreams, please allow me to be the first to welcome you to Capt. Gus's Saltwater Adventures!

Javier Gonzalez

Naturalist Educator, South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

Spring Migration

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. 

Devin Johnston

R9 Hive & Honey

Ecology Dynamics of Honey Bees vs Native Bees in South Texas

I am a professional beekeeper from the Rio Grande Valley. My daily job of performing live bee removals transformed into a love of all bees, not just honey bees.

Dr. David Hicks

Director of the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab

Monitoring Restoration Status of the Re-flooded Bahia Grande: A 15-year assessment

David W. Hicks, Ph.D. -- Marine / Estuarine Ecologist and Quantitative Biologist at the UTRGV, School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences. 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. He is the Director of the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab on South Padre Island, TX.

Anita Westervelt

Texas Master Naturalist

Tossed Ashore

Anita Westervelt is a member of Shell Club and a Texas Master Naturalist with the South Texas Border Chapter with more than 7,800 volunteer hours. She writes a biweekly nature column for the McAllen Monitor and Anita’s Blog, a look at the unique habitat of the Rio Grande Valley. Her articles can be viewed at A retired U.S. Navy Chief Journalist, she holds degrees in communication and fine art. She is a freelance photojournalist, native plant guide and presentation and workshop leader.

Jacquelyn Tleimat

Tortoises, pathogens, and AI: Oh My!

Jacquelyn Tleimat is a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi who has been researching wildlife since 2016. She has worked with frogs, rodents, bats, primates, and, now, tortoises! Her work with Texas tortoises began in 2021 because she was fascinated with diseases in wild populations. But now, she is in love with this iconic south Texas species and takes every chance she gets to tell people all about the Texas tortoise.

Justin LeClaire

Avian Conservation Biologist

Rookery Island Conservation in the Laguna Madre

Justin is a conservation biologist with the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, a nonprofit conservation organization. His main roles in this position are to survey and perform habitat management on rookery islands in the Laguna Madre for declining colonial nesting waterbirds, monitor shorebird productivity at various important breeding sites including Boca Chica, and perform various 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 before moving to South Texas nearly a decade ago. He has also dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to various wildlife research projects, habitat restoration, wildlife rescues, and outdoor education.

Marilyn Lorenz

Local Texas Master Naturalist

Specialties of the RGV

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.

Mary Jo Bogatto

Cactus Creek Ranch owner

Cactus Creek Ranch and Mary Jo Bogatto, owner, who started Cactus Creek Ranch, or CCR. Starting with only a few blades of grass and some local cacti in 1995, CCR currently consists of 400 acres that has been revamped into an ideal native habitat with nine man-made ponds. Mary Jo walks the three-mile research trail around her 400-acre property to make sure nothing’s out of the ordinary. Along the trail are markers identifying red ant beds and horned lizards which are protected on the ranch. Trip cameras document all activity of the ranch. Bogatto said she has a great respect for nature so every animal that is on the property or wanders onto it is going to be protected. Bird research via bird banding was begun on Cactus Creek Ranch during 2011 with Mark Conway. Site fidelity of both permanent residents and winter residents is the main emphasis of the project. Longevity of all species will be looked at as time goes on. We have been able to document two pairs of birds returning to Cactus Creek Ranch as a pair. This important documentation shows that two separate species have been recaptured at the ranch. These pairs were recaptured on the same date at the same time suggesting that they travel and migrate together as a unit. Mary Jo is elated because she is the romantic and sees it as a parent and child or couple returning to her and to CCR. Documentation on the ranch also shows the longest living Black-crested titmouse banded on CCR in 2011. To view the records go to bird banding lab and click
on longevity.

Recently, Mary Jo has been working with a Texas State University Ph.D. student and bird bander, Mark Conway, to document the Tuffed Titmouse. The Ph.D. student’s research was focusing on behavioral and social aspects of ornithology of the  Black-crested Titmouse. The study discovered the formation of kin-structured neighborhoods through limited juvenile natal dispersal which was a first for this species. The longest living titmouse was again captured and banded in 2017 along with its mate and siblings. Mary Jo Bogatto was acknowledged for her contributions with Bill Clark's research on the Harris Hawk in the THE WILSON JOURNAL OF ORNITHOLOGY Vol. 129, No. 2, June 2017. Future research and critical questions related to understanding sociality in Harris’s Hawk’ breeding strategy are, “What is the origin of the extra birds at nests? Are they related offspring from that group, or are they extra birds that are not related to the primary breeders? And, how does this relate to a polygamous breeding strategy?” Future research should evaluate these questions. 

Nestled close to the southwestern edge of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife, CCR is a center for environmental conservation and the preservation of endangered wildlife species. Bogatto calls it a “living classroom” that creates a “living diary of the plants and animals and their diverse habitat.” Bogatto works with LANWR on ocelot protection and with TPWD to protect the horned lizard and Texas Tortoise. Alligators, ocelots, bobcats, snakes, wild pigs and numerous species of birds and insects are just some of the types of animals that can be seen on the ranch. Bogatto said, “When you’re here, you always have to be aware of your surroundings.” She notes with a touch of laughter that she is an “everything watcher.” The ranch works with the Nature Conservatory and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and private donors. As a dedicated Partner in Wildlife, CCR’s habitat restoration has been undertaken through the direction LANWR and TPWD. The ranch is a recipient of TPWD’s Lone Star Land Stewards Award, and Bogatto has been honored by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality with its Texas Environmental Excellence Award in the individual category for her work to restore habitat. Every effort has been made to protect and preserve endangered wildlife species and to create an environment that focuses on the best that Texas has to offer. Mary Jo has made it her mission to educate the public on conservation and the importance of protecting the habitat.

Every effort has been made to protect and preserve endangered wildlife species and to create an environment that focuses on the best that Texas has to offer. Mary Jo has made it her mission to educate the public on conservation and the importance of protecting the habitat. Visit Cactus Creek Ranch Facebook for her photos and information on ranch.

Dr. Sharon Wilcox

Senior Texas Representative for Defenders of Wildlife

Ocelots in Texas: Conservation Challenges and Opportunities

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.

Shane Wilson

Fishing's Future Founder, CEO

Fishing the Pristine Water Surrounding South Padre Island, TX

Shane Wilson has spent a lifetime fishing and teaching others how to fish. He has fished in 49 states, was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, held an IGFA flyrod world records, fish with President 41 George H W Bush, has been featured in numerous magazines, on radio, tv programs, is a regular on nationally syndicated podcasts. He is the founder of Fishing's Future, a national organization that has taught more than a million individuals how to fish. He consults within the fishing industry on rod design, is invited to present at National ASA summits, and is seen as the expert in fishing education and recruitment. Since 1996, Shane has called South Padre Island home and his knowledge of these water is extensive.

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