Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

December 2014 Speakers

Our December meeting will be held at 7:00 PM Thursday, December 11 at the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.  Our speakers will be Drs. Cindy Bennington and Karen Cole from Stetson University where, among other duties, they co-direct the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem.

Dr. Bennington grew up in Havre de Grace, Maryland and received her Ph.D. from West Virginia University, where she studied plant adaptation to stressful environments.  In 1996, after completing a two-year postdoctoral research project at Princeton University, she joined the faculty of Stetson University where she teaches undergraduate classes in the areas of ecology and evolutionary biology.  In addition to outreach and research in the Sandhill Ecosystem, she continues her investigation of plant response to environmental stress using passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) as a model system.  Cindy lives in DeLand with her two children, Laurel and Ethan.

Dr. Cole grew up in the far western reach of longleaf pine forests, in northeast Louisiana.  She completed her undergraduate work near home, at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and then earned a doctorate in American Literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Interestingly, Karen came to her work in environmental studies through research projects on nineteenth-century women garden writers and environmentalists.  As director of the Gillespie Museum at Stetson, she coordinates the educational outreach programming of the museum with the undergraduate curricula in environmental studies and natural sciences.  In addition, she co-directs the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem Teaching Landscape with Dr. Bennington, and teaches courses on museum studies.  Karen also lives in Deland with her husband Grady Ballenger.  They have two grown-up sons, one granddaughter and aer expecting a second.

More than 15 years ago, the grounds immediately surrounding Stetson Museum’s Gillespie Museum were landscaped completely with trees and shrubs native to Florida, educating visitors about the diversity of Florida’s native plant communities as well as the value of using native plants in a residential landscape.  In 2010, a teaching landscape, the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem, was created adjacent to the Gillespie Museum to create a representation of the historic longleaf pine community that once dominated the sandy ridges of DeLand.  Since 2010, they have sought and received funding from a variety of sources and have engaged Stetson students and community members in planting and maintaining the grounds.  In addition, they have begun data collection in the site, with students most recently completing insect and bird surveys, comparing diversity there to other areas of campus as well as to native sandhills. 

Their presentation to our club will discuss what they have learned to date and where they are headed as they continue to grow as a site for environmental education.  Come out and learn about the great work they are doing on an already beautiful campus.

Refreshments will be served.