We’ve got a great lineup of walks, talks, and demos planned to help you learn about local ecosystems, wildlife, and what you can do to live more sustainably. Meet our presenters!
Peter grew up with a natural love of dirt. Beginning in his teenage years, Peter gained landscaping experience with large multinational companies that were responsible for maintaining properties. At 21, he was ready for the responsibility of entrepreneur, founding his own landscaping company in 2000. After many years of shopping for organic produce, he felt the need to merge his love of healthy, chemical-free food with his knowledge about Florida gardening to create a new business model. In the beginning of 2011, he expanded his landscaping business into an edible landscaping & organic gardening company, sparking the birth of the GreenDreams business mission. Peter continues to learn from the wide range of classes, courses, convergences and conferences and has gained even more knowledge from hands-on experiences and fellow growers.
Laura Starkey, daughter of Jay B and Marsha Starkey, is the founder and Executive Director of Heartwood Preserve Conservation Cemetery. After growing up on the family’s cattle ranch in Odessa, she lived in Tennessee, North Carolina and later Ecuador, before moving to Tampa and raising her daughter Sofia. She left her career as an ESL teacher to work at her dad’s ecotour business, Flatwoods Adventures, then become Director of Conservation Lands for Starkey Ranch, where her favorite role was setting the woods on fire, as a Prescribed Fire Burn Manager. In 2010 she began the long journey of creating Heartwood Preserve, a nature preserve with the region’s first conservation cemetery, which opens its doors in November 2016.
Pasco County Mosquito Control Public Education
Jillian Thomas grew up in Colorado with an everlasting love for the ocean. Immediately after high school Jillian moved to Florida to study Marine Science at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. In the last year of college Jillian interned for Lee County’s Aquatic Systems Mosquito Education Program leading her to work with the Lee County School District Environmental Education Program working out in the field with students 3rd-12th grades. After several years she moved into a classroom to teach Science to 4th and 5th graders. Jillian has recently relocated to Pasco County to work for Pasco County Mosquito Control District to help start an Education Program teaching students about mosquitoes and mosquito control. Contact her for your outreach programs!
Christian is a creative scientist through and through; mycology is her central driving passion in her work, she believes this Kingdom will ultimately aid in saving our earth and species. In addition to teaching about Fungi as often as possible and cultivating and collecting on her own, she has recently cofounded the Tampa Bay Mycology Society. They are gaining great moment and are conducting lectures/discussions, conservation efforts, forays, cultivation, research, etc. Christian has immersed her endeavors in a variety of experiences, diversifying her knowledge and skills. She earned her Bachelors of science from Stetson University, where she was also involved in a number of organizations that worked to spread sustainability, stewardship, education, and empowerment. While at Stetson, she conducted undergraduate research on the phylogenetic structure of the stonefly species, Hesperoperal pacifica, revealing effects of climate oscillations on the environment, as this species is an indicator species of the conditions in its environment. She went on to participate in a study through University of South Florida investigating the Begomovirus distribution and evolution, a plant pathogen that severely impacts agricultural success. She has two scientific papers currently published from this study. In addition, here are a number of the positions she has held since graduating: Conservationist with the Wyoming Conservation Corps; Science Educator at the Museum of Science and Industry; Organic Farmer at Maui Malama Family Farm; Herbalist Apprentice under Willow Lamonte's Herbal Delights; Herbarium Assistant at University of South Florida Herbarium; Tutor (science subjects and French) through Varsity Tutors and Chegg. Overall she makes it her job to live her life as a teaching opportunity to instill environmental stewardship, citizen science and innovation, and the instinct to question everything in everyone she encounters. She also pursues a variety of personal endeavors, including a garden of valuable plants and fungi at her house; cultivation and creation of Effective Microorganism sprays to use as plant and soil probiotics, as well as nontoxic cleaning agents; artistic creations of a wide spectrum of media, including science related pieces for teaching and eco-art; musical projects (particularly violin and mandolin); yoga practice and teaching; writing and composition; backpacking, camping and wilderness survival. She is in the process of applying for graduate school to study mycology and botany and will begin sometime next year.
Energy & Marine Center
University of South Florida, Ecology Florida
Dell deChant is a Master Instructor at USF, where he has served since 1986. His specialization is religion and contemporary cultures. His current research focuses on the religious and ecological dimensions of food production as it manifests in American popular culture and religion. He has published more than 30 articles in professional journals and encyclopedias, and contributed chapters to twelve books. He is the author of three books: The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture, Religion and Culture in the West: A Primer, and The Religious Dynamic of Consumer Culture. He is the co-author of Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. Dell deChant is a native Floridian. He served two terms on City Council in New Port Richey. Today, he continues to work for the betterment of Florida and his community, serving on the board of directors of Ecology Florida, Chairing the Environmental Committee of New Port Richey, and serving on the Food Policy Council of Pasco County.
The Yoga Viva
Kristen Prosen is a yoga educator, community herbalist, and artist with hundreds of hours of training in yoga, western herbalism, aromatherapy, and thai yoga bodywork. She came to yoga with a desperate need to heal her body and her mind. From yoga teacher training she found that she too could be of service in this world. She is currently working on her first book: a 3 month beginners course in yoga philosophy, ritual, and practice, & is conducting in depth research on social justice practices through yoga and herbalism.
West Pasco Audubon Society
For over twenty years, Mike Kell has been an influential figure within the Pasco County Birding scene. Since 2006, Mike has been an active member of the Audubon Society where he has served as Vice President, and currently holds a position on its Board of Directors. He also shows off his tech skills as the Society’s Webmaster. To date, Mike has identified over 260 different bird species in the wild. Remember, birds of a feather flock to Pasco EcoFest together.
Florida Earth Skill Gathering Founder, Finca Mycol
Mycol Stevens is a Biophiliac, ecologist, mycologist, botanist/ ethnobotanist, aquatic/wetland ecologist, biologist, ecological restorationist, environmental/former nuclear engineer, permaculturist, earth builder and musician. He has been foraging wild plants since he was a child and mushrooms since 1992. He has always considered forests and streams to be his favorite classrooms. He is the founder of the Florida Earthskills Gathering, which meets on his off-the-grid permaculture homestead. There he is also establishing a food forest and has undertaken longleaf pine restoration efforts. Along with having fun, his goals with teaching are primarily to inform and inspire others to go deeper into various earthly connections.
Amateur photographer, bird watcher and astronomer Joe Colontonio started a local group called Pasco Astronomers in 2003. The group is dedicated to public outreach, and spends most of its time setting up telescopes in Starkey Park. However, they’ve also been known to set up telescopes for Pasco County Schools. Joe has always been a vital asset to his community. He believes firmly that volunteering is the “best way to make things happen.”