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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Natural History of Temporary Ponds.
MAKING DOCUMENTARY WILDLIFE FILMS: Experiences of a Naturalist
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
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
SECRETS OF THE LITTLE KNOWN SOUTHERN WILDLIFE
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.