Skip to main content

Announcing Monthly Educational Lecture Series (November-May 2020)

Remaining lectures have been cancelled in the interest of public health & safety due to COVID19.  Please consult the Florida Department of Health for further information.


As part of its year-long centennial celebration, the Sebastian Inlet District will be kicking off a six-month educational lecture series on November 14 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. with a presentation on the history of Sebastian Inlet, featuring never before seen historical photos and documents from the District’s archives, at Sebastian Inlet State Park.   

These free monthly sessions are now scheduled through May 14, 2020 and will feature scientists and marine experts talking about environmental issues, as well as inlet and lagoon-related topics.  Educational lectures are scheduled for the second Thursday of every month (3:00-4:00 p.m.) and will be held in the second-floor classroom at Surfside Grill & Adventures, located on the North side of Sebastian Inlet State Park.  Regular Sebastian Inlet State Park entry fees apply. 

Registration is required, space is limited, and guests will be accommodated on a first-come basis.  Complimentary light refreshments will be provided by the District.  For more information or to register, call (321) 724-5175.


Thursday, November 14, 2019
Institution:  Sebastian Inlet District
Presentation Title:  100 Years at Sebastian Inlet
Presenter(s): Michelle Malyn, Public Information Associate
Session Description:  Learn more about the rich history of the Sebastian Inlet and the stories of those who persevered to keep the connection between the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean open, featuring never before seen historical photos and documents from the Sebastian Inlet District’s archives.

Thursday, December 12, 2019 - RESCHEDULED

Thursday, January 9, 2020
Institution:  Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) & Sebastian Inlet District
Presentation Title:  Coastal Dynamics and the Science Behind Inlet Management
Presenter(s): Gary Zarillo, Ph.D., FIT and James D. Gray, Sebastian Inlet District Executive Director
Session Description:  Learn more about how complex coastal systems work and the decades-long partnership between Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Sebastian Inlet District, analyzing data from fixed wave and weather gauges and conducting sophisticated modeling to monitor and manage sand resources at Sebastian Inlet.

Dr. Gary Zarillo photo

Dr. Gary Zarillo has an educational background in marine geology, physical oceanography and applied statistics, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.  His professional experience ranges from academic institutions to consulting and industry. He has completed applied and basic research in coastal processes, including prediction of sediment transport in shallow marine and estuarine environments, hydraulics of tidal inlets, dynamics of barrier islands and response of the coast to sea-level rise. He also has extensive experience in the application of statistics to geophysical problems.  He is a current professor at Florida Institute of Technology and courses taught include marine sedimentation, geological oceanography, coastal and estuarine processes and remote sensing.


James Gray photo

Mr. James Gray has a MS in Engineering Management and a BS in Ocean Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology.  He has over fifteen years of management, engineering, and environmental experience.  In his previous positions as Natural Resources Manager and Coastal Engineer for Indian River County, Mr. Gray’s responsibilities included; administering projects and budgets, implementing the County’s beach preservation plan, artificial reef program, lagoon restoration plan, removal of derelict vessels from the waterways, maintaining aids to navigation, and writing, applying for, and managing Federal and State grants.  Mr. Gray’s has extensive experience working with legislators and the public, and has overseen the award of in-excess of $50M in grant funding from various Federal and State agencies.  Mr. Gray serves as a Board member for the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA) and was awarded the 2018 FSBPA “Local Government Award” and the 2016 Keep Indian River Beautiful “Government Collaborator Award”.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Institution:  Marine Resources Council
Presentation Title:  MRC-Making the Indian River Lagoon Health Again and Right Whales on the Brink of Extinction
Presenter(s):  Leesa Souto, Ph.D. and Julie Albert
Session Description:  Learn more about the data being collected lagoon-wide and science-based approaches currently being deployed to revitalize the health of the Indian River Lagoon from MRC’s Executive Director, Dr. Souto.  The session will also feature marine biologist and North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Program Coordinator, Ms. Albert, highlighting this critically endangered species, and the importance of the winter calving grounds off the coast of Florida as the season begins (December-March).

Dr. Leesa DeSouto photo

Dr. Leesa Souto is the Executive Director for the MRC and adjunct faculty at FIT. She grew up in S. Florida and after completing her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Florida State, she moved to Brevard County to help protect and preserve the beauty of this area. She received a Doctorate from UCF with expertise in urban ecology that links human geography, structures and behaviors to water quality impacts. Her research focuses on groundwater impacts to the lagoon, muck management strategies, fertilizer, and alternative landscapes. Her professional career spans over twenty years of working to improve Florida’s water quality at Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office, and more recently with UCF’s Stormwater Management Academy. She loves the water and exploring new ecosystems in Florida and around the world.

Julie Albert photo

Julie Albert is the Coordinator for the North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Program. Her passion for marine mammals began in northwest Ohio where she enjoyed Sea World as a child. However, seeing whales in the wild for the first time on a family vacation to Hawaii in 1988 solidified this passion. She went on to earn her B.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1995. She also volunteered for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, worked in cephalopod aquaculture, and raised king penguins before moving to Florida in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Julie became MRC’s Right Whale Program Coordinator and loves educating the public about how we can be better stewards of our ocean environment and its inhabitants. She is a proud wife and mother of three wonderful children and is passionate not only about marine mammal conservation, but also animal welfare, recycling, and litter reduction. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020
Institution:  Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Presentation Title:  Hubbs-SeaWorld Research and Marine Mammal Stranding Program
Presenter(s): Megan Stolen, MS
Session Description:  Learn more about research being conducted locally by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, with the most active whale and dolphin stranding team in the state of Florida and a new project on otters, from marine scientist Megan Stolen.

Megan Stolen photo

Megan Stolen, MS came to the Institute in 1999 after completing her degrees at the University of Central Florida. Megan serves as a coordinator for stranded whales and dolphins along the beaches of east central Florida.  The focus of her research is on stranded and injured aquatic animals, particularly dolphins and river otters of the Indian River Lagoon system. She also directs research in the Institute’s laboratory for life history research. Her expertise involves using teeth to estimate the ages of individual whales and dolphins. Other research interests include:  pathology and disease occurrence, growth and population modeling, and identification and study of harmful human interactions with coastal cetaceans and habitat use and health of river otters.

Thursday, April 9, 2020
Institution:  Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program
Presentation Title:  Indian River Lagoon Restoration: Looking ahead to 2030
Presenter(s): Duane DeFreese, Ph.D.
Session Description:  Learn more about role and responsibility of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program to develop and implement a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan that protects IRL waters, wildlife and our way of life from Dr. DeFreese.

Dr. Duane DeFreese photo

For over 3 decades, Dr. De Freese has been a champion of science-based, common-sense ocean and coastal conservation in Florida. He is recognized for his ability to “see and communicate the big picture” by integrating environmental, economic and social considerations into a vision for Florida’s future. Duane holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Rhode Island (1976) and M.S. (1982) & Ph.D. (1988) degrees in Marine Biology from Florida Institute of Technology. Duane was instrumental in helping to secure U.S. EPA National Estuary Program designation for the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) in 1990. In September 2015, his career came full circle when he was named Executive Director of a new special district of the state of Florida (IRL Council) that will serve as the host of a reorganized Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. In this new role, Duane works with federal, state and local government agencies, scientific research organizations, academic institutions, elected officials, industry and the general public. The goal is to develop and implement a science-based restoration strategy for one of the nation’s most threatened estuarine ecosystems.  Duane currently serves on several national and statewide advisory boards: Board of Directors for the Association of National Estuary Programs; Board of Directors for the Florida Ocean Alliance (Vice-Chair); Governor Rick Scott appointment to CareerSource Florida Inc. Board of Directors; and Governor Ron DeSantis appointment to the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. At a local level, Duane serves as a volunteer for numerous organizations throughout the region.

The Sebastian Inlet District was created in 1919 as an independent special district by act of the Florida State Legislature, and chartered to maintain the navigational channel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River.  The Sebastian Inlet District’s responsibilities include state mandated sand bypassing, erosion control, environmental protection and public safety.  The Sebastian Inlet supports a rich and diverse ecological environment that is unparalleled in North America.  The Inlet is vital not only to the ecological health of the Indian River Lagoon, but it is also an important economic engine for local communities in the region.  Known as the premier surfing, fishing, boating and recreational area on the east coast of Florida, the inlet is one of only five navigable channels that connect the Indian River lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Institution:  FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Presentation Title:  HBOI’s Harmful Algal Bloom Lab & Taskforce
Presenter(s): Malcom McFarland, Ph.D.
Session Description:  Learn more about FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom Lab and Taskforce, and ongoing research on algal blooms from scientist and principal investigator Dr. Malcolm McFarland.

Dr. Malcolm McFarland photo

Dr. Malcolm McFarland’s research is focused on understanding patterns of phytoplankton distribution, abundance, and species composition. His work combines laboratory experiments, microscope-based analyses of water samples, and the development of new techniques to observe phytoplankton population dynamics with high spatial and temporal resolution. He is particularly interested in harmful algal blooms due to their impacts on human and animal health, and their apparent global increase associated with climate change. His research is important to understanding the role of phytoplankton in aquatic ecosystems at local and global scales.