2015 Featured Speakers

Learn more about our panel of experts who will be featured at this year's 16th annual festival!

Southeastern Avian Research

Southeastern Avian Research (SEAR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established to promote the conservation and preservation of hummingbirds and other neotropical migrants through scientific study and education.  Located in Clarksville, Tennessee and under the leadership of HBSG crew member Cynthia Routledge, SEAR’s current projects include an ongoing winter hummingbird banding study, a hummingbird migration banding study and participation in MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship), a collaborative continent-wide breeding bird study that has been ongoing since 1989.

Southeastern Avian Research is delighted to have been invited to participate in this year’s Hummingbird Festival and honored to be able to continue the great tradition of hummingbird education and banding established by Bob and Martha Sargent and the Hummingbird Study Group.

Jessica Hite

Jessica is a PhD candidate at Indiana University. Her research focuses on the more subtle, underappreciated aspects of parasites in wildlife populations. For example, parasites can alter host demography (e.g., juvenile:adult ratios), whether hosts have sex (or reproduce asexually). This variation in host populations can then alter the severity of parasite outbreaks and may help us understand why parasites exert catastrophic damage in only certain populations.

Jessica also serves as the Conservation Chair of the local Audubon Society chapter (Sassafras Audubon) where she works on Chimney Swift conservation and education programs that combine art and science. 

Featured Programs:

Chimney Swifts: The Coolest Birds You Never Knew You Knew

Rob Mies

Rob Mies is a conservation biologist, bat expert, author, and Director of the Organization for Bat Conservation. He has appeared on many television shows including The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Martha Stewart. Rob is the co-author of the first field guide to the bats of the United States and Canada, “Stokes Beginners Guide to Bats.” His research includes work with the endangered Indiana Bat of the United States, endangered Rodrigues Fruit Bat in the Indian Ocean, and the threatened Spectacled Flying Fox Bat in Australia.

Featured Program:

Batman, Bananas & Bugs: A Live Bat Program

Terry L. Vandeventer

Terry Vandeventer is the owner of The Living Reptile Museum Educational Productions, he regularly lectures at professional symposia across the United States and in several foreign countries.  A popular personality on television and radio call-in shows, Terry Vandeventer is also the author of numerous scientific and popular publications on snakes.  Formerly in charge of the Jackson Zoo Reptile Department, he now serves as Herpetology Field Associate with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

Featured Program:

Good 'Ol Down Home Mississippi Snakes

Andrea Schuhmann

Andrea Schuhmann currently works for the Missouri Department of Conservation as a Natural History Biologist. Andrea coordinates and performs monitoring and inventorying of rare plants, animals, and natural communities in the St. Louis region. She is the statewide recovery lead for the federally protected American burying beetle and Decurrent false aster and a board member of the St. Louis Audubon Society.

Prior to moving to Missouri, Andrea spent five years in Mississippi working first as a Conservation Biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and later, as the Outreach and Education Director of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center. Andrea is a lifelong nature enthusiast and student of conservation, investigating the health and integrity of our natural communities and engaging others in efforts to protect and restore the beautiful diversity of life that enriches our world. 

Featured Programs:

Disturbed: How Fire, Wind and Water Contribute to the Diversity of Life

Living on the Brink: Threatened and Endangered Species and Our Efforts to Save Them

Dr. Dave Unger

Dr. Unger has been involved with wildlife research since 1990, when he was an intern at the Savannah River Ecology lab studying Catfish and Alligators.  His work with Alligators inspired a desire to work with top carnivores.  Dr. Unger did his Masters degree on wolves in the great lakes region, his PhD on black bears in Kentucky, and has worked with other large predator projects such as the Yellowstone wolf project, the Colorado Mountain Lion Project, and the Colorado lynx project.  Dr. Unger has also handled/worked with smaller carnivores, including the American Marten, Coyote, Badger, River Otter, and Bobcat.  He has been an assistant professor of biology at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee since 2012.  Working in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park has inspired Dr. Unger to expand his research interests.  As such, he is currently conducting projects on Northern River Otter, Aquatic Insects, Gopher Tortoise, Box Turtles, Flying Squirrels, and Salamanders.  Dr. Unger loves all things biology, and hopes that through his classes and public speaking that he inspires a greater love and appreciation for our marvelously complex and splendidly diverse planet.

Featured Program:

Why Birds are simply AWESOME!

Little Red Riding Hood Lied:  What she didn’t tell you about the Big GOOD Wolf

Deb Waz

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science has four Outreach Educators that cover the state.  Deb Waz is the educator for north Mississippi, Jackie Henne-Kerr covers the delta/central region, Jessica Eaves the southeast and Sabrina Cummings the southwest. They travel their regions visiting schools, community groups, festivals, etc. informing the public about wildlife and endangered species in Mississippi. Each educator is a Project WET and Project WILD facilitator, helping teachers learn how to integrate wildlife and water education into their classroom. Their coworkers include an American alligator, snake, and turtles.

Featured Program:
Mississippi Wildlife

Mississippi Reptiles

Bob Tarter

Bob Tarter received his degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Illionois, Urbana-Champaign. Bob Tarter worked for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for several years as a wildlife biologist and later with Ducks Unlimited and their waterfowl research program in North Dakota. Bob incorporated the Natural History Educational Company of the Midsouth (NHECM) to educate children about the natural world and reach out to others who may never have an opportunity to view and learn about these animals up close.


Mike and Jennifer Garey founded Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary. The Arlington, TN sanctuary rescues abandoned domestic ducks and geese, provides proper food, shelter & veterinary care and promotes education about these waterfowl. Back in 2007, The Gareys discovered that there were few resources and even fewer sanctuaries for these birds and made it their mission to fill this void and create “Heaven on Earth” for them. The sanctuary consists of 2 acres protected by predator proof electrical fencing and a 1 acre pond with an air-conditioned barn. Mike owns GT Innovation, a computer service company and is an engineer and inventor. In 2013 he invented the world’s first 3D printed prosthetic duck foot for a handsome Pekin named Buttercup and the story went viral worldwide. Buttercup’s left foot was turned backwards when he hatched and had to be amputated.Mike used 3D CAD software and a 3D printer to model an exact copy of Buttercup’s girlfriend Minnie’s left foot.  Buttercup has been on many TV shows including The Today Show, Fox & Friends, CNN, and Nat Geo Wild and in magazines in the U.S., England, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, and Canada. His famous “first walk” on YouTube has over 860,000 views!  Buttercup is also the only honorary Peabody duck in the grand hotel’s 80 year history. He enjoys being with people and hanging out with “Teddy”, his beloved teddy bear which he has been with since he was just 1 day old.

Heather Gallagher

Heather Gallagher has worked as Environmental Education Specialist at Warner Park Nature Center in Nashville for 16 years, where she coordinates programming for school groups and other educational groups, scouts, and families. Heather lives outside of the city with her husband Kris and 3 dogs. 

Featured Program:
The Joy of Hummingbirds

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