2024 FESTIVAL SPEAKERS (2025 updates coming this summer)


Opening Keynote Wednesday, January 24th

Sharon Stiteler, The Bird Chick, ” Todays Office”

Thursday, January 25th

Kevin Loughlin and John C. Kricher, Co-Authors, “Galapagos Islands, A Journey of Wonder”

Friday, January 26th

Laurilee Thompson, “The Story of Rock Shrimp, Calico Scallops and Preserving the Oculina Coral Bank”

Saturday, January 27th

Kevin Karlson, Wildlife Photographer, Guide and Author, “Reflections of a Grateful Birder”


Sharon Stiteler Spacecoast Birding & Wildlife Festival Keynote Speaker

Wed. Jan. 24, 4:00pm; Limit 100 Registrants $20

Sharon Stiteler, The Bird Chick, ” Todays Office”

Talk Description: For over 20 years, Sharon Stiteler successfully lived up to her goal to get paid to go birding. She’s written books, created an online tv series, hosted a birding podcast, conducted bird surveys, appeared in a birding reality show, and worked as a field trip leader. During the pandemic she decided that bears actually pay more money and shifted careers to working inside Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Through her work she has had many hilarious incidents happen while trying to do her job including life changing moments in bird surveys, birding in nude beaches, and trying to decide to date a birder versus a non-birder.

 Sharon Stiteler – Bio – Sharon Stiteler is known online as “The Birdchick” and is an OG bird blogger and writer who helped popularize the phrase “cobra chicken” to refer to Canada Geese in her book North American Bird Watching for Beginners. She’s written several books on birds and one on rabbits as well as appeared on NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, and several podcasts answering bird questions. Her writing has been found in several publications from Audubon Magazine to The Washington Post. She currently works and resides inside Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. She escapes down to the Rio Grande Valley, Texas whenever winter storms will allow it.

 Kevin Loughlin Spacecoast Birding & Wildlife Festival Keynote Speaker

Thurs. Jan. 25, 4:00pm; Limit 100 Registrants $20

Kevin Loughlin and John C. Kricher, Co-Authors, “Galapagos Islands, A Journey of Wonder”

Talk Description: At one time the islands were only a way station for whalers and pirates.  Then the Galápagos Islands, an archipelago 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador, found a new identity when a young British man, Charles Darwin, arrived during the voyage of the HMS Beagle in September 1835.  Darwin spent several weeks exploring four of the main islands and his observations were pivotal to his eventual realization that organisms change with time, that they evolve and adapt. Today the Galápagos finches remain a clear and unambiguous example of the reality and ongoing nature of evolution by natural selection.

Kevin Loughlin, owner of Wildside Nature Tours, and ecologist John Kricher—co-authors of the book Galápagos: A Natural History (Princeton University Press 2022)—take pleasure in the opportunity to discuss the unique and enigmatic fauna and flora of the Galápagos Islands. Together they will share their adventures while delving into the remarkable natural history of the archipelago, while Kevin’s colorful photographs, taken while leading 48 tours to the Galapagos, fill the screen.

Kevin Loughlin [pronounced LOCK-lin] – Bio – Kevin Loughlin has been photographing the natural world for over 50 years. He founded Wildside Nature Tours in 1993 and has been leading birding tours and photo workshops ever since. Kevin’s articles and photographs have been published in numerous magazines such as Birding, Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer, Living Bird and others. Although Kevin travels the world over, one of his favorite destinations is the Galapagos Islands, and has led 46 tours to this amazing archipelago. Co-authored with John Kricher, Kevin’s new book GALAPAGOS: A NATURAL HISTORY includes over 650 of Kevin’s photos

John Kricher Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival Speaker

John Kricher – Bio – John Kricher was a Professor of Biology at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts since 1970, until he recently retired. A graduate of Temple (B.A.) and Rutgers Universities (Ph.D.), Dr. Kricher teaches courses in ecology, ornithology, and vertebrate evolution.

John has conducted Earthwatch-sponsored research on migrant birds on their wintering grounds in Belize and is the author of over 100 papers and articles in scientific journals, magazines, and newspapers. His most recent books are The New Neotropical Companion (2017) and Tropical Ecology (2011), both published by Princeton University Press. He has also authored The Balance of Nature: Ecology’s Enduring Myth (Princeton University Press 2009), Galapagos: A Natural History, published in hard-cover by Smithsonian Institution Press (2002) and in soft-cover by Princeton University Press (2006). Other books include three ecology field guides (Eastern Forests, Rocky Mountain and Southwestern Forests, California and Pacific Northwest Forests) in the Peterson series. His widely-used book, A Neotropical Companion has been translated into Spanish through the Birders’ Exchange Program of the American Birding Association and the third edition, The New Neotropical Companion, was released in 2017. He most recently co-authored Galapagos: A Natural History 2nd Edition, also published by Princeton University Press (2022).

John is a Fellow in the American Ornithologists Union and has served as president of the Association of Field Ornithologists, the Wilson Ornithological Society, and the Nuttall Ornithological Club. He has been a member of the boards of directors of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the New Jersey Audubon Society, and the American Birding Association.



Fri. Jan. 26, 4:00pm; Limit 100 Registrants $20

Laurilee Thompson, The Story of Rock Shrimp, Calico Scallops and Preserving the Oculina Coral Ban

Talk Description: 15-30 Miles off the central east coast of Florida lies a narrow strip of mounds made up of the slow-growing ivory bush coral, Oculina varicosa. A deepwater coral that typically only grows 1-2 meters tall, Oculina bush coral flourishes along the edge of the Gulfstream. Here, the species forms massive thickets, and Oculina pinnacles and ridges rise 10 to 30 meters above the ocean floor. The coral thickets support diverse communities of finfish and invertebrates, and consequently have been designated as essential habitat for many species of fish.

Once plagued by World War II-era bombings to destroy German U-boats, fishing impacts, and episodic die-offs, this important ecosystem is now protected in federal waters of the U.S. South Atlantic Bight. Two economically important fisheries exist around the Oculina bank: rock shrimp and calico scallops. Join this popular local storyteller as she shares historic and present-day pictures and videos to tell the story of her family’s journey to introduce rock shrimp to the world and establish protections from fisheries for this unique coral ecosystem, the likes of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Laurilee Thompson – Bio – Laurilee’s earliest memories are of running wild and free on her grandfather’s fishing pier, hanging out on her father’s dredge, and plucking wildflowers with her grandmother. As soon as she could hold one, a fishing pole was gifted and thus began a life-long love of fishing and the outdoors. She commercially fished in the Indian River Lagoon in her teen years and managed to get an AS in Oceanographic Technology at Florida Tech. Soon after her stint at college, she got a job as a deckhand on a swordfish longliner and the Gulfstream became her new playground.
She quickly learned the differences between estuary and ocean fishing and captained her first commercial longline vessel at the age of 29.
Laurilee left the sea in 1987 to help in her parents’ restaurant, Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, where she is now a co-owner. Over the years, Laurilee has served on a variety of tourism, environmental and fishery boards. She no longer fishes, instead she concentrates on the restoration of her beloved Indian River Lagoon, which has suffered disastrous impacts from development. She founded the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in 1997 to educate folks about the wondrous natural resources that bless Florida’s Space Coast, never dreaming the festival would grow into the renowned event that it has become.


Kevin Karlson Spacecoast Birding & Wildlife Festival Keynote Speaker

Sat., Jan. 27, 4:00pm; Limit 100 Registrants $20

Kevin Karlson, Wildlife Photographer, Guide and Author, “Reflections of a Grateful Birder”

Talk Description: This light-hearted presentation examines birdwatching through Kevin’s eyes and explores some of the reasons why so many people enjoy watching and studying birds, including a unique camaraderie with other birders. Photos of birds, people and other creatures from various locations will be shared, as well as humorous events and stories that make the ride so interesting. Forty-five years of casual and passionate birding have shaped Kevin’s life in so many ways, with much of it revolving around the study and enjoyment of birds, and this show shares his appreciation for the journey. Come along for a ride through time that we all can relate to, with birds, people and special places the stars of the show. Kevin is planning to retire from many bird related activities, and this will be his last keynote talk at the Space Coast Festival, so come and celebrate the journey with him.

Kevin Karlson – Bio – Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, author, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer/instructor. He is a regular at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations, workshops on bird identification, and photo instruction. Kevin’s books include The Shorebird Guide (2007); Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Bird Identification (2015); Birds of Prey, with Pete Dunne (2017) (all three Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers); Gulls Simplified: A Comparative Identification Approach, (Princeton University Press, 2018); and Bird Families of North America) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), both with Pete Dunne as co-author. A new book titled “The Shorebirds of North America: A Natural History and Photographic Celebration” with Pete Dunne (Princeton University Press) has just been completed and will be out in the spring of 2024, and is not an ID guide.

Photography books include The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing). Kevin also produced six photographic laminated foldout ID guides for Quick Reference Publishing (Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012); Waterfowl of North America (2013); Warblers of North America (2016);  Shorebirds of North America (2014); and  Owls and Nightjars of North America (2017). While officially retired, Kevin continues to lead select tours and photo workshops for his company Jaeger Tours, and for Wildside Nature Tours of Pennsylvania.

Kevin is planning to retire from most speaking and tour leading engagements following an 18- month battle with advanced bladder cancer. He is doing fine now, and is presently cancer free, but wants to enjoy the rest of his life with his wife after 30 years of leading tours and speaking engagements. Come and see Kevin one last time at The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in January 2024 and wish him luck for the future. After 20 years of giving talks and leading walks at this festival, he is leaving with nothing but good memories and many lasting friendships, so come and share one last special event with him.


“subject to change without notice”


If you have any questions regarding the festival, sponsorship, or exhibiting, please give us a shout.

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Association

P.O. Box 74, Mims, Florida 32754

January 22nd -26th, 2025


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