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Brown Bag Lectures

Tuesdays at 12:15 pm - Smith Wilkes Hall

Week 1

Unique Habitats of Western New York

Tuesday, June 25th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Marisa Riggi
Western New York Land Conservancy

Marisa is the Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy. Marisa was born in Rochester and grew up in Williamsville, New York. Marisa obtained a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and attended graduate school at the University of Vermont where she obtained a M.S. in Natural Resources.


After graduating, Marisa began working at the Northeast Wilderness Trust, where she worked for over 5 years to protect land in the Northern Forest region. Marisa moved home to Western New York in 2018 with her family to work at the Land Conservancy and make Western New York a more connected, and healthier place. Marisa is passionate about land conservation and wildlife, and enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and gardening in her spare time.

Week 2

Bumblebee Banquet

Tuesday, July 2nd

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

There will also be a screening of The Last Bumblebee at 4:30PM on Tuesday, July 2nd at the Chautauqua Cinema

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Janice Overbeck
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Heather Holm
Honorary Director of Wild Ones

Heather Holm is a biologist, pollinator conservationist, and award-winning author. In addition to assisting with native bee research projects, she informs and educates audiences nationwide, through her writing and many presentations, about the fascinating world of native pollinators and beneficial insects, and the native plant communities that support them.


Her first book, Pollinators of Native Plants, was published in 2014; her second book, Bees, published in 2017, won six book awards, including the 2018 American Horticultural Society Book Award. Her book Wasps was published in February 2021. Heather's expertise includes the interactions between native pollinators and native plants, and the natural history and biology of native bees and predatory wasps occurring in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Heather is a National Honorary Director of Wild Ones. She also serves on the board of the Friends of Cullen Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary, a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Week 3

Architecture - House and Garden Tour

Tuesday, July 9th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Bob Jeffries

Bob holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Miami University and a Masters in Architecture Specializing in Historic Preservation from Kent State. Bob is the president of two businesses, Maviro Corp. and Town Improvement Assn. Inc. which specialize in the renovation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.


He currently serves on St. Petersburg Community Preservation Board,  the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Assn.,  the Grand Central District Assn., is co-chair of the Central Avenue Council, representative, CPOA, chair of the Architectural Review Board, and past Trustee of Chautauqua Institution. He currently sits on the Chautauqua’s Hotel Board and Friends of Chautauqua Visual Arts.


He has been honored with a number of awards including Preservationist of the Year 2002 and 2013 by St. Petersburg Preservation and the Award of Excellence in 2008 by the Tampa Bay American Institute of Architects and 2017 Award of Honor Multi-Family Restoration or Rehabilitation by St. Petersburg Preservation, 2018 Dave Goodwin Award of Excellence in Development and the 2019 Secretary of State (Florida) Outstanding local supporter of Main Street.

Week 4

How Native Plants Can Help Us Share A Crowded Planet

Tuesday, July 16th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

Carolyn Summers
Flying Trillium Gardens and Preserve

Carolyn Summers is the author of Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East. Most recently, some of her photographs grace the pages of a new book, The Pollinator Victory Garden, by friend and colleague Kim Eierman.

After completing her BSLA (Landscape Architecture) degree at CCNY, she began an atypical career with the Trust for Public Land, producing an open space report for the Harbor Herons Project that has guided preservation efforts to create an urban wildlife refuge on Staten Island. Ms. Summers continued environmental work with New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection as the agency’s first Director of Natural Resources, including implementation of a new native plants policy for all agency construction/restoration projects. Following her work with New York City, she came to the Natural Resources Defense Council, initiating a regional project to preserve and restore wildlife habitat and public access in the New York-New Jersey Bight.

Carolyn is currently an adjunct professor for Go Native U, a joint project of Westchester Community College’s Continuing Ed Program and The Native Plant Center (based at Westchester Community College). She and her husband manage Flying Trillium Gardens and Preserve , making it available for public tours, so that designers, gardeners and homeowners will be inspired by the beauty of native plants in both garden and natural settings to create more of the same.

Week 5

Lecture Title TBD

Tuesday, July 23rd

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Maya van Rossum
Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Maya K. van Rossum is the founder of the national Green Amendment movement. In her role as the Delaware Riverkeeper, she was the lead and only environmental plaintiff in the landmark Robinson Township, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et. al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania case that breathed new life into Pennsylvania’s long ignored environmental rights amendment. In the wake of this victory, van Rossum conceived of the vision that every state should have a constitutional environmental right as powerful as Pennsylvania’s, and ultimately at the federal level as well.

In 2014, van Rossum coined and carefully defined the term, “Green Amendment”, and wrote her award winning book, The Green Amendment: The People’s Fight for a Clean, Safe, and Healthy Environment, which is now in its second edition. She later founded Green Amendments For the Generations, a national organization which has inspired Green Amendment efforts in nearly two dozen states, and was a key leader in the effort that resulted in successful passage of the New York Green Amendment in 2021. 

van Rossum is also the Delaware Riverkeeper, leading the watershed-based advocacy organization, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, for over 30 years in its efforts to protect the health of the Delaware River and its tributaries. Maya van Rossum has received numerous awards and accolades including earning the Giraffe Hero award, given to those who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good. Her writings have been featured in such publications as Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg Law, Law360, the Boston Globe, and TIME Magazine.

Week 6

We Are One Song With The Earth

Tuesday, July 30th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Elmore DeMott
Elmore Creates

Elmore DeMott will inspire us to listen to and connect with the natural world as she shares her beautiful photography. Passionate about encouraging people to connect with nature and tap their creative selves through the arts, Elmore DeMott is a speaker, writer, and artist. She finds nature to be her greatest source of inspiration as she proclaims, "Beauty abounds. Seek it daily." Through her words and images, we witness Mother Earth's invitation to heal ourselves, as well as the Earth, by experiencing nature's abundant gifts and listening to her voice.

Elmore is a life member of the Chautauqua Bird, Tree and Garden Club and is delighted to be returning to Chautauqua.

Week 7

Ecological Restoration

Tuesday, August 6th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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David Agro
Architect and Conservationist

David J. Agro is an award winning architect and conservationist based in Toronto whose work was based in a long-term interest in environment, ecology and sustainable design. David is founding member and past President of the Jocotoco Foundation. David was also the founding president of Jocotours, an associated business which runs five ecolodges and two interpretive centers on six of Jocotoco’s reserves to generate income to provide interpretive/educational experiences and to cover conservation operations costs. At home in Canada, David’s efforts in conservation have included supporting the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Long Point Basin Land Trust in Norfolk County, Ontario, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, and the rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge, Ontario and a recent project to expand the breeding population of Kirtland’s Warbler in Ontario.


For the past 17 years, David and his wife have been restoring a former 95 acre tobacco farm in Norfolk County, Ontario to Black Oak Savanna / Prairie which is now one of the most diverse restored prairie / meadow sites in southern Ontario with over 200 native plant species. Numerous rare and endangered animal and insect species have returned to the site, which is part of a larger mosaic of 5000 acres of protected land owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Long Point Basin Land Trust.

Week 8

Global Freshwater - Water Protection

Tuesday, August 13th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Jeff Opperman
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

As global lead scientist for freshwater, Jeff works across the WWF network and with external partners to direct research that can strengthen conservation strategies and to integrate science into freshwater programs and projects. 

Jeff came to WWF from The Nature Conservancy where he served as the director and lead scientist of the Great Rivers Partnership. His scientific and policy research has been published in journals such as Science, BioScience and Ecological Applications and he is the lead author of the book Floodplains: processes and management for ecosystem services, published in 2017. 

Jeff strives to communicate the challenges and opportunities of protecting fresh water through op-eds, articles and blog posts in such places as Outside, National Geographic, Grist, and The Guardian, including a 10-part series featured on the New York Times website about traveling with his family down the Mekong River in southeast Asia, exploring the people and conservation issues of that region. He holds a Ph.D. in ecosystem science from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. in biology from Duke University.

Week 9

Natural Connections - Looking At Birds for Answers in Land Conservation

Tuesday, August 20th

12:15PM at Smith Wilkes Hall

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Twan Leenders
Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy

From a young age, Twan Leenders has been fascinated by tropical rainforests and the exotic plants and animals that inhabit them. Growing up in a small town in The Netherlands, he devoured every relevant book his local library had to offer. While finishing up his degree in Biology and Animal Ecology at the University of Nijmegen in the early 1990s, Twan spent six months in the rainforest of Costa Rica to study coral snake mimicry and survey the herpetofauna of the rainforest canopy and from that point on there was no turning back…


After living and working in various parts of Central America for more than a decade, Twan moved to the U.S. in 2000 where he worked as a researcher in the Division of Herpetology and Ichthyology of Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History. Since then, he has worked as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and returned to the trenches of conservation research and outreach while leading the Science and Conservation Office of the Connecticut Audubon Society. More recently, Twan and his family moved to Western New York where he served as President and Executive Director of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI). He currently is Director of Conservation at the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, where  he applies his experience to protecting the ecological health and natural beauty of the region. However, Twan returns to Costa Rica and Panama regularly, with or without student researchers in tow, to band migratory birds on their wintering grounds and to study some of the planet's most endangered amphibian populations.


Based on the notion that all stewardship starts with education, Twan has always been keenly interested in sharing his experience and knowledge. He has authored five books and numerous magazine and journal articles on the flora and fauna of Costa Rica, including the very first field guide to amphibians and reptiles for that country in 2001. As an avid photographer and wildlife artist, his images adorn the pages of these books. However, Twan's photographs have also appeared in publications by the National Geographic Society, GEO, Dorling Kindersley’s ‘Eyewitness’ publications, and numerous other magazines and books. His field guide illustrations are currently in use for educational purposes and displays at the Royal Ontario Museum, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences, and Smithsonian’s ‘BioMuseo’ in Panama City, Panama.


Twan lives in Jamestown with his wife Casey, their two children, a dog, a pet hedgehog, and somewhere between 100-200 tropical frogs whose amazing colors and cheery calls brighten even the darkest winter days.

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