Mound House Lecture Series


Springs, Sawfish, Seminoles & More

“The ‘Friends of the Mound House’ are excited to kick off our 2019-20 Lecture Series,” explained Penny Jarrett, the Mound House Education Program Coordinator. “The Lectures are the second Tuesday of each month from November through May, with Social Time at 5:30 p.m. and Lectures at 6. In addition to the fascinating and educational presentations, we offer lovely refreshments that includes fruit and gourmet cheese, and you can even enjoy a glass or two of wine! We request, however, that you make advance reservations at 239-765-0865 as the Mound House can accommodate just 45 people, so reserve your spot today! Admission is $5 for Mound House members and $10 for non-members that we will collect at the door. Cash only please, as we do not have the capability to accept credit cards.”

Steve Koski, the Sarasota County Archaeologist for Libraries & Historical Resources, begins the Series on Tuesday, November 12, with “Evidence of Florida’s Earliest Inhabitance: Warm Mineral Springs & Little Salt Spring, Sarasota County.” Penny stated, “We are thrilled Steve is the first speaker this year, because he actually worked on the excavation of the former Mound House swimming pool that is now our underground exhibit. He even appears in the educational video that is part of that presentation! While I would love to take credit for arranging his program as part of the Mound House’s 4th anniversary of its opening to the public on November 14 and our community celebration to be on the National Register of Historic Places on November 16, I must confess that Steve’s November 12 lecture is just by happy coincidence, but it just goes to show that everything ties together!”

Warm Mineral Springs and Little Salt Spring are national treasures of unprecedented significance, as they are sinkholes and springs visited by peoples of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene period from 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. Warm Mineral Springs is the only natural geothermal mineral spring in Florida and known for its mysterious healing waters, with a commercial site developing around it in the 1950s. Little Salt Spring is an archaeological and ecological preserve owned by the University of Miami. Both are archaeological portals to Florida’s past that play an important part in its cultural heritage. Koski will discuss his more than 25-year involvement with the sites, including what his research revealed about its geology, hydrology, paleontology and archaeology.

Everglades Journey

December 10 features Dr. Roger Hammer, who is a Naturalist, Survivalist Instructor, and prolific author of books on Florida wildflowers and Everglades exploration. “Everyone will really enjoy Dr. Hammer,” Penny enthused! “In speaking with him over the telephone, he is a hoot and a half, and when you are that entertaining over the phone, you must be terrific in person! He was Manager for the 120-acre Castellow Hammock Nature Center for the Miami-Dade County Parks Department for 30 years, received the first Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award from the Florida Native Plant Society, and his latest book is about exploring Everglades National Park. Interestingly, Dr. Hammer is the Survivalist Instructor for the Discovery Channel’s reality television show, ‘Naked & Afraid!’”

Dr. Hammer’s topic is “Journey Through the Everglades – A Program for Hikers, Bikers, Paddlers and Wildflower Enthusiasts.” “He will speak about the great diversity among Florida’s native plants,” said Penny, “and how spectacular they are, how much they benefit our wildlife, and how much they add to our landscaping. This is especially important to Fort Myers Beach, as we explore ways to benefit our local water quality by using less fertilizer. We offer a number of Dr. Hammer’s books for sale in the Mound House Museum Store, so he will conduct a book signing following his lecture.”

And The Rest

Mound House Lectures-Fort Myers Beach
Steve Koski, Sarasota County Archeologist will begin the Mound House Lecture Series with a presentation on Warm Mineral Springs & Little Salt Spring on November 12. Photo courtesy of Visit Sarasota.

The 2020 portion of the Lecture Series begins with Tonya Wiley on January 14 when she offers “Florida Sawfish: A Past, Present, & Future Look.” Wiley is President of Havenworth Coastal Conservation and Team Leader for the National Maritime Fisheries Service’s Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team. Penny related, “Sawfish are large shark-like rays that were once relatively common in Florida’s coastal waters but are now endangered. Tonya will provide interesting facts about sawfish, updates on current projects, explain management tools like the Endangered Species Act, how you can help their recovery, and other information about the unique smalltooth sawfish. She will bring a three-foot sawfish replica, you can feel real sawfish rostral, and get some terrific sawfish swag!”

The February 11 speaker is David Scheidecker, Research Coordinator of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, with “Seminoles of Florida” that explores the tribe’s history and their connection to the State. March 10 is Stephan Brown, the UF/IFAS Horticulture Agent for Lee County, with “Landscaping with Florida Native Plants.” Dr. Michael Parsons, Professor of Marine Science for Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and The Water School, Director of the Vester Marine & Environmental Science Research Station, and a member of Governor Ron DeSantis’s “Blue-Green Algae Task Force,” presents “Red Tide, Blue-Green Algae & Water Quality” on April 14. Dr. April Watson, Florida Atlantic University Professor and Secretary of the Florida Archaeological Council, concludes the Lecture Series on May 12 with “Sifting for Sustainability: An Archaeological Case Study from Boca Raton, Florida” that will highlight sealevel rise.

“A Unique Experience”

Tonya Wiley will discuss Florida sawfish on January 14. Photo copyright Dana M. Bethea, NOAA Fisheries.

Penny explained that part of the funding for the Friends of the Mound House Lecture Series came from the “What’s In The Water” Project sponsored by the Mound House, FGCU, and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Planet Stewardship Education Program.” “NOAA provided $2,500 for educational outreach, to share with people the value and benefits of using Florida native plants in landscaping, so that is why I selected several of the speakers.” “What’s In The Water” volunteers to date have conducted two Fort Myers Beach-wide water sampling days, with Dr. Parsons and his students conducting the necessary testing to discover what is in our local waters and the actions necessary to improve water quality.

The Mound House, at 451 Connecticut Street, is the oldest standing structure on Estero Island, with overflow parking at 216 Connecticut. The Town of Fort Myers Beach operates the Mound House as a museum complex that offers numerous educational programs each month, including guided tours to explore the 2,000-year-old Calusa Indian Shell Mound, beach walks and kayak eco-tours. Admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 for students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12, and 5 & under free, with Town residents receiving a 50% discount. Through December 31,it is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  From January to April it is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For information & programs, call 239-765-0865 or see

“I have been organizing educational lectures since 1992,” concluded Penny, “and in my opinion, this series is one of the best! Hear first-hand about pioneering work done by archaeologists, naturalists, wildlife researchers, marine scientists and other leading authorities. These are unique experiences where experts come right into our community, and it is nothing like what you might see on television, so take advantage of these great opportunities. Events like these are exactly why the Mound House happily continues to expand its programming!”