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Professional Slide Presentations & Lectures

by D. Bruce Means

Can be delivered on an 8’ X 8’ screen using rear projection

Dr. Means is available to deliver lectures on a wide selection of natural history topics based on his professional research, teaching, documentary filmmaking, and travel. Lectures are accompanied by high quality 35 mm color slides. Normally lectures run about one hour, but the length of each presentation can be tailored to the needs of the audience (one-half to four hours). CUSTOM LECTURES can be tailored to a specific audience’s interest based upon Means’s 40+ years as a naturalist in the Southeastern U. S., South and Central America, Australia and other places. Dr. Means draws from his extensive bank of 75,000 color slides. Fee is negotiable, depending upon time involved and distance traveled, size of the audience, and other factors. Please contact him at Coastal Plains Institute, 1313 Milton St., Tallahassee, FL 32303 (phone 850-681-6208; fax 850-681-6208).

Lost Worlds of Ancient Gondwanna: Recent Explorations

This hour-long slide-lecture presentation features the exotic, mysterious, remote, and unexplored rainforest and cloudforest vastness of western Guyana. Come along with Dr. Means on two of his recent explorations of an ancient and poorly explored part of the heart of South America, which used to be connected with Africa in the supercontinent Gondwanna, more than 100 million years ago.
In 2003, Dr. Means participated in a month-long expedition through trackless rainforest to the "Prow" of the famous 9,000-foot high, flat-topped mesa, Mt. Roraima, the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, Lost World. On an elevational transect up Mt. Roraima, Dr. Means discovered two species of frogs new to science plus many other interesting frogs, carnivorous plants, wildlife, and breathtaking scenery. Dr. Means and this expedition was recently featured in an hour-long National Geographic Ultimate Explorer documentary film entitled, "Into the Lost World," that premiered in February 2003.
Later in 2003, Dr. Means returned alone with one companion/helper for another month-long expedition on-foot with backpack to another remote and entirely unexplored mesa called the Mt. Wokomung Massif. Along another elevational transect he discovered about six species of frogs new to science and made many new natural history observations of various plants, animals, and ecology of the region.
Come hear his lecture on this remote and forgotten corner of the world, a repository of some of the world's rich biodiversity, and see his high quality images of the animals, plants, and scenery of this uninhabited tropical paradise. Click here for a visual tease with a few of his images

U. S. DIVERSITY HOTSPOT: The Overlooked Southeastern U. S. Coastal Plain.

Where in the U. S. and Canada do you find the most frogs (35 species), most turtles (35 species), most snakes (45 species), most diverse assemblage of salamanders (6 of 8 worldwide families), most tree-rich forests (Southern Temperate Hardwood Forest), and most carnivorous plants? In one of the most overlooked natural regions on the continent, the southeastern U. S. Coastal Plain. Stretching from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to east Texas, the SE Coastal Plain is a band of land up to several hundred miles wide skirting the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Largely passed over in Colonial times, now this region is experiencing a dramatic population boom from internal migration to the Sunbelt, as it is called by developers. Its main ecosystem, accounting for about 60 % of the original landscape, the longleaf pine forest, has shrunk to less than 2% of its pre-colonial extent, and yet, the region still boasts of a large treasure trove of native ecosystems such as remnant patches of longleaf pine forest, swamps and springs, river bottomlands and flatwoods, carnivorous plant bogs and caves. Based on his more than 40 years studying the Coastal Plain, Dr. Means displays the values of this poorly known region with captivating photographs of its many native ecosystems and unique animals and plants.

KING RATTLER: Natural History of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Partly based on an intensive radiotelemetry study of a free-ranging population, this lecture presents the results of Dr. Means's 30-year involvement with the largest and most dangerous venomous snake in the United States and Canada. Conducted on Tall Timbers Research Station in northern Leon County, Florida, and elsewhere in the Coastal Plain, learn about the life history, behavior, and ecology of this fascinating animal. DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH is the title of a book soon to be published on the natural history of the eastern diamondback rattler based on this work. Also, see KING RATTLER, an hour-long National Geographic Explorer documentary film about Dr. Means’s research.

QUEST FOR THE RAINBOW SERPENT: World's Oldest Story and Snakes of Australia.

Australia's Aboriginal peoples are the custodians of humanities oldest continuously recorded myth--the Rainbow Serpent. It is a creation myth. Where the Rainbow Serpent crawled became meandering rivers; where mountain ranges twine through the landscape reveals the shape of its resting body. It is believed that the Rainbow Serpent still dwells in the depths of the tropical billabongs where it protects those precious waters. Rising into the sky at the end of the dry season, the Rainbow Serpent sparks violent thunderstorms that bring life-giving rain. Rising rivers flood the plains and breathe new life into dormant vegetation. The Rainbow Serpent is a life-giver, but it has a dark side. Break tradition and annoy it, and it can take life away.
Across Australia, snakes have wound their way into people's lives. For more than 50,000 years, snakes have figured prominently in Aboriginal culture and survival. Fearsome predators, deadly foes, but even providers of sustenance, Australia's snakes are as diverse and amazing as it's unique mammals. Living from the cold forests of Tasmania to the baking deserts of the interior and the tropical rainforests of the north, Australia's snakes have evolved into more than 175 different species. Among these are many of the world's most venomous snakes (70% of the snake fauna) such as the western taipan, rated most toxic in the world. Lurking in the depths of many tropical billabongs is the file snake, also known as the wart snake, or elephant trunk snake. So ugly that it could be said to be beautiful, this is the Sharpei dog of the snake world. Its skin seems three sizes too big for its body. Covered in beaded scales it lives in the depths of tropical pools preying on catfish where it strangles its prey in deadly coils like Tolkein's Gollum. Hunting in the northern rainforests, giant amethystine pythons also wrap their prey in suffocating coils. On stormy islands off Tasmania lives the giant black tiger snake. It starves in its desolate home all year until hundreds of thousands of migrating oceanic "muttonbirds" return to nest. The snakes gorge on the newly hatched chicks until, after their first few weeks of life, the chicks become too large to swallow and the snakes must fast for another year.
In an extension of his decades of snake studies in the United States, Dr. Bruce Means recently journeyed across Australia in search of its most fascinating serpents and people whose lives have been touched by snakes. On Chappell Island he grappled with the deadly, giant, black tiger snake that gluts on muttonbirds. In the tropical billabongs of the north, Bruce waded neck deep with a group of Aboriginal ladies feeling for the rough bodies of file snakes with their bare feet--notwithstanding the occasional crocodile that might have made a meal out of them. Elsewhere he explored the ecology of the inland taipan, the rare rough-scaled python, the abundant water python, the bat-eating spotted python, and many venomous snakes. And Bruce was present at Aboriginal camp fires where he heard the whispered secrets of Australia's most legendary snake, the Rainbow Serpent.
Have you seen Bruce Means in "Quest for the Rainbow Serpent," an hour-long documentary film produced for National Geographic Explorer Television about the snakes of Australia? Come and delight in his adventures, listen to his stories about the many interesting snakes and other amazing animals he encountered, and see spectacular photographs about the fascinating natural history of East Gondwana, Oz, or the Land Down Under, as Australia is variously called.

ISLANDS IN THE SKY: Tepuis, Lost Worlds of Gondwana.

“Lost World”, “El Dorado”, and “Green Mansions” all refer to a remote region in northern South America made famous by the literary giants Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Raleigh, and William H. Hudson, respectively. The truth about the Texas-size Guayana Highlands in southeastern Venezuela, however, is more fabulous than the fiction of these great classics. For instance, off rugged high mesas called “tepuis”, plunge the world’s first and third tallest waterfalls--down the sheer faces of 3,000-feet high fringing cliffs, to swell the waters of the Orinoco River, the world’s third largest river by volume. Pico de Neblina, the tallest tepui, is the highest point on the South American continent east of the Andes. Tepuis are erosional remnants of ancient sandstones laid down 1.6 BILLION years ago, three times earlier than the presence of macroscopic life on earth. Because of their antiquity, the summits of tepuis are a fantastic archipelago of evolutionary activity.

The cliff-protected tepui summits, some over 1,000 square miles in area, support hundreds of animals and plants found nowhere else on the globe--even on other tepuis. The biotic diversity of the Guayana Highlands is especially interesting because of the long-time isolation of life on the high altitude tepuis...yet the region is relatively unstudied and poorly explored. When fully told, the story of evolutionary adaptive radiation on tepuis will become at least as famous as that of the well known Galapagos Islands.

Dr. Means has become a leading authority on the biology of the Guayana Highlands. In 15 expeditions he has boated the Orinoco, Ventuari, Casiquiare, and Cunucunuma rivers by dugout; walked 225 miles across Amazonas territory through virgin rainforest in February-April 1993; and has lived and traveled with indigenous peoples of the tribes Pemon, Yek’wana, Piaroa, and Yanomami. Come hear Dr. Means give a broad overview of the natural history of the Guayana Highlands based on his climbs of six major tepuis.

His book on the natural history of the Guayana Highlands is in preparation, entitled LOST WORLDS--Tepui Natural History.

DARWIN’S DELIGHT: Natural History of the Galapagos Islands.

Desert islands astride the equator; active volcanoes and ropy pahoehoe lava; 13 large and 46 small islands bathed in cold waters of the Humboldt Current; adaptive radiation of finches and sunflowers, lava lizards and giant tortoises; wonderfully tame animals; turquoise and royal blue waters. It's no wonder these islands caught Darwin's attention and fostered his ideas on natural selection. They also fueled the literary genius of Herman Melville, who aptly named these international treasures, "Las Encantadas," the enchanted isles. Dr. Means’s lecture is based upon his familiarity with the islands and illustrated with his photographs. He has organized and led 6 two-week long natural history tours of this tropical paradise, and will be leading other trips there in the future.

FIRE FOREST: Natural History of the Vanishing Longleaf Pine Ecosystem.

Longleaf pine forest was the principal upland vegetation covering the nearly 2,000-mile long Coastal Plain from SE Virginia to east Texas. It originally accounted for about 60.6 percent of the landscape of this large region, or about 82.5 million acres. Incredibly, old-growth longleaf pine forest today totals no more than about 10,000 acres throughout its entire historic range--about 0.01% of its original extent. In the most recent count of 1990, all remaining tracts of longleaf pine totaled only about two million acres, representing a shrinkage to less than 2 percent of the landscape over a period of about 200 years. The loss of this important native vegetation was so extensively underway as far back as the Great Depression that botanists B. W. Wells and I. V. Shunk in 1931 were moved to lament that “The complete destruction of this forest constitutes one of the major social crimes of American history.”
The loss of longleaf pine forest is tragic, ecologically--and a great loss to mankind--because of the decline of its high biodiversity. The number of groundcover plants, for instance, ranges up to 300 species per 2 1/2 acres. The highest level of small-scale plant species diversity in North America--about 42 species per square foot--was reported from mesic longleaf pine savanna in the Green Swamp of North Carolina. Botanists counted 191 species of rare vascular plant taxa associated with that portion of the longleaf pine forest range having wiregrass (Aristida beyrichiana and A. stricta). Using The Nature Conservancy’s Natural Heritage Program methodology, 122 of these plants were considered endangered or threatened throughout their total ranges. Sixty-one taxa were listed as endangered or threatened by rare plant laws in three states, and seven taxa were listed or proposed as endangered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The same botanists estimated that 66 rare wiregrass associates are local endemics, a very high number of endemics for a regional ecosystem type in the U. S.
Animal biodiversity is high, too. The number of species of breeding birds was higher in old-growth longleaf pine forest than in other forest types in Florida. The highest species density of amphibians and reptiles in North America was mapped over the geographic distribution of longleaf pine. At least 170 (59%) of the 290 species of amphibians and reptiles native to the Southeastern U. S. are found within the range of longleaf pine.
Longleaf pine forest plays a "keystone" role in maintaining between-habitat diversity throughout the Coastal Plain. In the presettlement landscape, fires burned downslope from longleaf pine forest into seepage bogs or wet savannas frequently enough to keep them free from invasive but fire-sensitive wetland shrubs (Cliftonia monophylla, Cyrilla racemiflora, Ilex coriacea, I. myrtifolia, Clethra alnifolia, and others). Southeastern herb bogs are characterized by a rich variety of grasses and forbs including one of the world's greatest assemblages of carnivorous plants (sundews, bladderworts, butterworts, pitcher plants). Herb bogs are fire-dependent ecosystems that normally burn every three to eight years, but succeed to shrub bogs in the absence of fire. An Alabama authority estimated that more than 95% of Gulf Coast pitcher plant bogs have been eliminated. The fires that maintain the ecological integrity of herb bogs come downhill from adjacent longleaf pine forests, not from the swamp forests downslope, and rarely from fires ignited in bogs, themselves.
A landscape in which longleaf forest has been eliminated is a landscape that has lost much of its biodiversity. Indeed, the drastic reduction and fragmentation of the Southeastern U. S. Coastal Plain longleaf pine forest has had dire consequenses for untold species of plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates that, like the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, are highly adapted to the longleaf pine ecosystem and cannot survive in man-made environments or even in disturbed forests that grow up on abandoned lands.
Dr. Means is a recognized authority on the longleaf pine ecosystem and many of its terrestrial animals. His lecture presentation, illustrated by his fine photographs, draws on more than 40 years of living in and studying the longleaf pine forest.

EPHEMERAL LIFE: Natural History of Temporary Ponds.


COTTONMOUTH! The Most Feared Southern Snake

AMPHIBIAN PARADISE: The Salamanders and Frogs of Florida

THEY CREEP AND CRAWL: Snakes of Florida

WILDLIFE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA: Treks in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa

MADAGASCAR: Wildlife and Ecology of an Ancient Landmass

EXPEDITIONS TO GUYANA: The Search for Frogs in a World Biodiversity Hotspot

Under Development

SOUTHERN SWAMPS: Last of the Dinosaurs

QUETZLCOATL: Mayan Iconography and Natural History of the Neotropical Rattlesnake

PRICELESS FLORIDA: Presentation to accompany promotion of book by same title, co-authored with EllieWhitney and Ann Rudloe


Seepage Bogs and Wet Flats: Fire Ecology and Management

Evolutionary Ecology of Plethodontid Salamanders: Lessons from 30 Years’ Research in the Coastal Plain

Carnivorous Plant Ecosystems, Worldwide.