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Lectures are held at Back Bay Science Center from 7:00-9:00PM on the first wednesday of every month.  December will not have a lecture series.  2017 lecture topics will be posted soon.

600 Shellmaker Rd.
Newport Beach, CA 92660

2016 Dates: 

January 6th, "Our Local Threatened Shorebird, the Western Snowy Plover", Josh Weinik
This talk will discuss the basic ecology of the western snowy plover and the role that public beaches play in the persistence of this threatened species. Josh Weinik works for the City of Newport Beach as a Natural Resource Interpreter and for the Audubon Society as a biologist for the OC Western Snowy Plover Beach Roost Survey. He recently completed his master's degree at Cal State Fullerton in Environmental Studies. His graduate work included the habitat assessment of western snowy plover habitat in Newport Beach, CA.

February 3rd:"Twenty Years and Counting - the Formation and Evolution of Habitat Conservation and Land Management across the Conserved Land Network of Central & Coastal Orange County" with Milan J. Mitrovich, Ph.D.

Milan Mitrovitch, PhD; Science Coordinator at Nature Reserve of Orange County (NROC)
Dr. Mitrovich’s professional background is in conservation biology, with an emphasis in landscape and wildlife ecology and urban design. Over the last 10+ years Dr. Mitrovich has served in research and advisory roles for several public and private sector organizations, including Solution Strategies, Inc., an environmental consulting and strategic advisory firm based out of Los Angeles, California; the Biological Resource Discipline of the U.S. Geological Survey; the national award-winning Orange County Great Park Design Studio; and the Nature Reserve of Orange County, the conservation organization charged with implementation and management of one of the first multi-species habitat conservation plans created in the United States. Dr. Mitrovich holds a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from the University of California, San Diego, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis, and San Diego State University.

March 2nd: Sara Briley
Sara Briley; Director of Marine Restoration at Orange County Coastkeeper
Sara is a Southern California native with a passion for inspiring ocean conservation through community restoration. She earned her B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California Los Angeles where she had the opportunity to complete underwater research at Santa Catalina Island an Mo'orea French Polynesia. After returning home to San Diego to survey pink abalone populations and intern with the San Diego Oceans Foundation, Sara moved to Orange County to pursue her Master's degree in Biology from the California State University, Fullerton. For her thesis, Sara studied the larger ecosystem benefits that oyster restoration may have on eelgrass and has spent many days in poor visibility water counting eelgrass. At Coastkeeper, Sara coordinated the restoration of oyster, eelgrass, abalone and other nearshore habitates with the help of dedicated community volunteers. Sara loves SCUBA diving, hiking, gardening, cooking and good local beer.

April 6th: Jennifer Burnaford
Jennifer Burnaford, PhD; Associate Professor at California State University, Fullerton
Jennifer Burnaford is an intertidal community ecologist with research interests in rocky and soft-sediment systems. She earned her BA in Biology from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and PhD from Oregon State University. She has experience working in intertidal systems along the US Pacific coast as well as in New Zealand and the Gulf of California. Her long-term research program has focused on understanding the community-level effects of habitat modification by algal canopies on rocky shores. Her current research on this topic includes comparative studies of plant-herbivore interactions and algal physiological ecology at sites from Washington to southern California. She is also interested in the impacts of non-native species on intertidal community structure and function. Current projects include studies of invasive clams and oysters in southern California bays and estuaries and studies of introduced seaweeds on southern California rocky shores.

May 4th - Bodhi Smith (Nature Photography)

"An Introduction into Long Exposure Seascape Photography" by D."Bodhi" Smith.

Bodhi Smith will be discussing photography on the beaches of Southern California along with all the planning that includes location, weather, tidal, and solar/lunar positional data that comes along with creating the best chance for capturing images that are spectacular.
“I am sure that this sounds truly odd, but I am not really in photography to make money...yes, I do sell my work, but I take all of my proceeds and funnel it back into my equipment, software, website, travels, framing, printing (all of which is quite expensive) so that I can show more of my work to more and more people...much of my work is of San Diego, Oceanside, Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, San Francisco, Temecula, Lone Pine, Bishop, Bodie, Death Valley...we have so many things so beautiful right under our noses (or relatively close by), and photography is something everyone can do to capture those memories...I really want to get that message out to people who are inspired by my work. As almost everyone pretty much has access to some sort of camera these days (especially with the smart phone explosion)...folks need to realize that time slows down with every moment that is frozen in a photograph, and this process helps a person's life become more meaningful as they slow down, stop rushing from point a to point b, and start noticing their world around them more vividly.” – D. Bodhi Smith
D. “Bodhi” Smith is a nature and weather aficionado who goes out every day to explore, experience, and capture the marvels he gets to witness before him through the lens of his camera. Bodhi is an award winning professional landscape photographer who is considered a master with capturing ultra-long exposures, but he also teaches digital photography at a public high school close to where he makes his home in Southwest Riverside County in Southern California. He is a native Californian born next to the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside,, he spends much of his time seaside up and down the California and Oregon coasts. But he also frequently visits beautiful places in the Eastern Sierra, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Western Colorado, Hawaii and South America... Bodhi specializes in prints on metal, a process that makes his photos snap out with color and jump to life. However, he also dabbles in other mediums such as placing extra acrylic on large archival photographic prints to create an impression of paint-brush strokes on a photo that already has impressionistic characteristics. He also uses “thematic” framing with some of his iconic images to create more of a holistic impression of the image and more of the impression of “being there.”
Currently Bodhi’s photographic artwork can be found at numerous galleries in Temecula, Menifee, Fallbrook, Oceanside, Laguna Beach, Palm Springs, and San Diego. He is the main featured artist at two prominent California Vineyards: Lorimar Winery in the Temecula Wine Country; and Mutt Lynch/Deux Amis Winery in the Sonoma Valley. His artwork is permanently on display at Temecula City Hall, as well as at local Southern California hospitals, businesses, libraries, hotels, and animal clinics. Also, Bodhi’s artwork is periodically on display at the Gallery at the Merc (Temecula), San Diego Natural History Museum, Fallbrook Art Center, and Del Mar Fair (San Diego County). Bodhi Smith has won awards for his photography at The San Diego Museum of Natural History (second place and an honorable mention), the San Diego Del Mar Fair (People’s Choice Best in Show, five second places, several fourth places and honorable mentions), and the Fallbrook Artist Guild show (People’s Choice Best in Show).

June 1st - Dick Newell

"Bobcats and Other Predators in the Urban Setting: A closer look at some of our wild neighbors." by Dick Newell.  

Dick Newell is the founder and primary instructor for Orange County Trackers which is a wildlife conservation organization. He and his team provide training for wardens, park rangers and other wildlife researchers in tracking animals and understanding their behavior. He is a member of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Science Team and has been monitoring local wildlife through the use of wilderness cameras county-wide for more than a decade. Using radio telemetry he has participated in extensive wildlife studies supporting such agencies as US Geological Survey, Cleveland National Forest, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Newport Beach Animal Control, Newport Bay Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy among others. Newell is a prolific writer on subjects related to our local wildlife and he maintains an educational website on animal behavior and tracking skills. Learn more at

July 6th - Stephen O'Neil (Native American Astrology)

 “Acjachemen Star Lore and the Summer Solstice.”with Stephen O'Neil.

The sky, daytime and nighttime, were an intimate part of the Juaneño (Acjachemen) world.  It was a part of both the natural and the supernatural world.  The native peoples of Orange County had their origin stories which told how the heavens and the world below came into being.  The sun and the moon were both members of the First People who set the scheme for how people live today.  Many of the stars were chiefs who had their own followers.  The Acjachemen developed a sophisticated calendar based on movements of the sun, the moon and constellations.  Close observation of the winter and summer solstices reset the calendar each year, the “months” based on the yearly cycle of seasons and used to regulate gathering and hunting.  This body of cosmological beliefs and knowledge of the natural world will be described.  Stephen O’Neil has thirty years of experience as a cultural anthropologist in California.  He has researched and written on ethnography, archaeology and history, concentrating on the ethnohistory of Southern California indigenous peoples.  He received his M.A. in cultural anthropology at California State University, Fullerton.  Stephen has expertise in the use of mission records for the study of population and social networks, and is familiar with ethnobotany and rock art.  O’Neil also has archaeological experience, mostly on Native American prehistoric sites, but also Spanish, Mexican and American period adobes.  He has published in the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society QuarterlyNews from Native California, and the Society for California Archaeology Newsletter on topics ranging from village place names, to cosmology and medicinal plants.  He grew up on the Orange County coast and now lives in Laguna Canyon.  O’Neil works as the Cultural Resources Manager for UltraSystems Environmental in Irvine, California.

August 3rd - Matt Yurko (Native Plant Ecology)

"An Evening Interpretive Walk along the Bluffs of Upper Newport Bay"  with Matt Yurko.  Join us for a presentation that steps out of the classroom and onto the trail!  We’ll take an interpretive walk along the bluff edge with beautiful sunset views of Upper Newport Bay.  From the trail, we'll discuss the bay's natural history and cultural history, as well as some of the present-day human activities that impact that bay's ecology.  We'll also have a bird’s eye view of our Newport Valley restoration site where volunteers are making their own mark on the bay by actively restoring its wildlife habitat.  Matt Yurko is the Restoration Education Program Manager for the California Coastal Commission's Community-Based Restoration and Education Program at the Upper Newport Bay.  Matt has been working at the bay since 2005.  He offers community-based restoration events and environmental education programs to the public and school groups.  In addition to managing restoration fieldwork at the Upper Newport Bay, Matt teaches Ecological Restoration and Environmental Studies courses at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA.  The trail is mostly flat with some stairs.  Comfortable walking shoes and a camera are recommended.  There will be a shuttle present to take attendees to the trail head that will run from 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm only.  Please be on time!  Please note the time change for this lecture.

September 7th - Speakers: Voyager Program Partners

‘Citizen Science Academy – Newport Beach Voyager Program’    Building off of this year’s Science of Sustainability Symposium, this talk will explore the goal of bringing together the community to discuss what sustainability means in the context of watershed management and to work through a collaborative strategic planning process. We will focus on Environmental Study Areas within Newport Beach and programs that teach about the value citizen science provides not only the science community but also to help fulfill a personal sense of wonder and inquiry, evolve learning, and further extend science communication. There will be the opportunity to learn about a nature-based workshop program that focuses on the interrelationships between nature and humans through history, ecological relationships, positive environmental behaviors, and more.

October 5th - Dr. Robert Fisher “Golden Eagle Research in Southern California: The Eagle Telenovela

Golden Eagle Research in Southern California: The Eagle Telenovela” with Dr. Robert Fisher.San Diego has had a long legacy of Golden Eagle research, and he will review the published literature to set the stage for the new work he has initiated. In fall 2014, trapping was conducted to capture primarily adult Golden Eagles to better understand their movement biology as it relates to human use of the landscape in southern California. To date 28 different eagles have been captured across three counties (Orange, Riverside, San Diego). The captured eagles are tagged and given solar GPS backpacks, from which they transmit 15 min. or in some cases 30 sec. 3-D location data. The altitude data is very important in knowing how they are crossing certain land forms, both natural and urban. The data is also informing mate selection, territory use, and foraging habitat. Modeling from this movement data is helping to delineate the remaining habitat that might be available to eagles in this landscape. Some of these models will be shown as will animations based on the real movement data from individual birds so that landscape usage is easier to understand. Sources of mortality will be discussed as will the nest site occupancy study initiated this winter. If genetic analysis is competed, these results will also be discussed that they should highlight relatedness between the individual birds captured to date.  Robert Fisher received his B.S. from UC Irvine (1988), Ph.D. from UC Davis (1995), postdoc at UC San Diego, then Research Scientist position at USGS since 1998. Work in Robert’s lab consists of research throughout southern California on the effects of urbanization on biodiversity and testing the effectiveness of the Habitat Conservation Plans initiated in the early 1990′s. Significant work has been completed on the 2003 and 2007 San Diego fires and 2009 Station Fire in Los Angeles. Much of the work by his lab focuses on reptiles and amphibians, including several critically-endangered frogs. To understand the landscape ecology of southern California there was a critical need to look at species with large movement ranges, so our focus on mountain lions, bobcats, and now golden eagles helps fill that gap. Additional research programs focus on baseline biodiversity surveys and inventories in the Pacific Basin including the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Samoa. 

Dr. Bryant has been working with students and local environmental organizations to photodocument and monitor local biodiversity, emphasizing terrestrial invertebrates (insects and spiders), and marine invertebrates (zooplankton). Projects include field studies of the distribution, seasonality and abundance of these animals, as well as studies of their life cycles. The resulting data are being used to build a comprehensive web site showing the diversity, life history, ecological roles, and conservation issues concerning these animals as well as plants and other organisms. A specific region of mitochondrial DNA, called the “DNA Barcode” is being used for matching adult animals with larval stages, and for species identification as part of the International Barcode of Life Project.

The remaining 2016 speakers will be posted soon! To be added to our email list and receive monthly invitations, please email

Reservations recommended, please call: 949-644-3037 or

Not appropriate for under 12 years old. Attendees need to be prompt; FRONT GATE OPEN 6:30-7:15 PM.