Peg Abbott is the owner and lead guide of Naturalist Journeys, LLC. She has been designing, guiding, and organizing natural history tours for more than 25 years, working for the National Audubon Society and other organizations before launching Naturalist Journeys, LLC in 1998. Her work has taken her from Alaska to Africa and Argentina, as well as many other locations around the world. She has conducted research on several bird and mammal species and keeps a close interest in Yellowstone and Mexican wolf reintroduction projects. Her interests include all aspects of natural history and geology. After 20 years in and around the Yellowstone area, Peg relocated in 2003 to the birding mecca of Portal, AZ.
Photo credit: Carol Simon
Gustavo is a professional birding guide, working with Naturalist Journeys in both Ecuador and Colombia. He has also led many trips to the Galapagos, the Andes, Amazonia, and more. Gustavo not only has expertise in botany, but also in birding, and is passionate about the history of South America. He has guided in Colombia since 1991 and has developed close relationships with many birders in the country. His knowledge, kindness, and enthusiasm help to create a forever memorable experience.
Willy Alfaro Cervantes
Artist and photography enthusiast Willy Alfaro has been guiding natural history and birding trips in Costa Rica, Cuba, the East Coast of US and Panama since 1992. In January of 2004, Willy went as a naturalist expert to Chile, including Patagonia and Easter Island with the University of Delaware.
When not guiding, he is an active lecturer and educator, having led biology workshops for the University of Costa Rica and for the University of Delaware’s Horticulture Program in Costa Rica.
His interest in birding has inspired active participation in the Costa Rican Ornithological Association, for which he has been on the Board of Directors since 1997. With the association and other organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Willy has participated in several taxonomy projects, documenting bird species and migration patterns of Costa Rica’s avifauna.
Willy has also volunteered for the Costa Rican Biodiversity Institute (INBio), La Selva Biological Station, and has organized guide training workshops EARTH Agricultural College.
Soft spoken, with a gentle disposition, Willy says his love of nature and science began at 6 yrs old when his father bought him an encyclopedia on Natural History. His interest in Biology bloomed in college, following a field trip to Braulio Carrillo National Park. After the trip, Willy began volunteering for the INBio herbarium and for a project studying the diet of the Scarlet Macaw in Carara National Park. He has also worked on a hummingbird-feeder project to find out the ecological impact on hummingbird populations.
A former student of Marketing, Today Willy is dedicated to ecotourism and to developing a database to map and study the populations of the birds of Costa Rica.
Photo credit: Peg Abbott
Bob Behrstock is a nature photographer, writer and tour leader living in SE Arizona. He has led birding and nature tours for nearly 30 years, primarily in North and Latin America. He has compiled Christmas Bird Counts in Mexico and participated in biological surveys including the development of birding and wildlife trails in several different states. As a full-time tour leader, he birded throughout the U.S., many countries in Latin America, and in the Old World. Besides taping and photographing birds in many countries, butterfly and dragonfly photography have taken him to all corners of the U.S. and several parts of Mexico. Bob has authored or co-authored nearly 50 popular and scientific papers concerning fishes, birds, dragonflies, and butterflies in the U.S. and Latin America, and prepared several of the family accounts for The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. His bird and insect photos appear in books, newspapers, and magazines including: Audubon, Smithsonian, Birding, WildBird, American Butterflies, and the Handbook of Birds of the World. He is a co-author of Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coastand Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and has just finished an introductory guide to Southwestern dragonflies. Bob enjoys birding with tour participants of all skill levels and is equally happy pointing his spotting scope at other creatures. naturewideimages.com
Photo credit: Karen LeMay
Dan Donaldson is an accomplished naturalist-birder based in Northeastern Ohio. Dan has developed his skills while working as a naturalist for a local park district for 15 years as well as with his full-time job as director of the local soil and water conservation district. With varied audiences from novices to experts, Dan incorporates much more than just identification in his tours and programs. Dan led tours for Discovery Tours and this is where Peg and Dan met. His specialization in birding locales ranges from the Great Lakes to coastal destinations from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the Florida Keys.
Dan has led a number of historical tours including Michigan’s lighthouses.
Butterfly, orchid and bird authority of Honduras. An avid naturalist from childhood, Robert left his native California to join Peace Corps, finding a passion for tropical nature on arrival in 1993. He has authored two CD's, small field guides, and the forthcoming authoritative "Guide to the Birds of Honduras". He resides at the scenic Lake Yojoa and spends much of his time afield.
Gerard Gorman is a very experienced birding and wildlife guide, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe where his knowledge of the wildlife sites of the region is second to none, having visited every country from the Baltic to the Black Sea. He guided a Naturalist Journeys group on our previous tour to Hungary. Gerard is also an author, his books include Central and Eastern European Wildlife (Bradt, 2008) and Birding in Eastern Europe (WildSounds). His main ornithological interest focuses on woodpeckers, and he is regarded as an authority, authoring the acclaimed Woodpeckers of the World (Firefly Books, USA/Canada, 2014). Gerard is also interested in wildlife tracks and signs and his Pocket Guide to Tracks and Signs of European Wildlife (Bloomsbury, UK) was published in 2014.
Photo credit: probirder.com
Andrew started in the tourist industry in 1968 on Australia’s Dunk Island, then worked in the Melbourne Zoo's reptile department, followed by a stint at the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service. Here he did field work, supported by captive studies, on Brolgas, Sarus Cranes, Magpie Geese, Herbert River Ringtail Possums, Longtailed Pygmy Possums and a few others. He also participated in captive studies of tree kangaroos, antechinuses and leatherback turtles. In 1986 he started a small eco-tour company in North Queensland, which grew into a nature and adventure company. Once Andrew moved to the US, he was responsible for tours to the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Chile and Alaska, before starting Nature Travel Specialists in 2003. He resides in the peaceful birding haven of Dauphin Island where he quickly entered the local community to share interests of conservation. He enjoys cooking, reading, networking with friends and colleagues, and the challenge of a new adventure.
Photo credit: Peg Abbott
Dave Jasper hails from Wisconsin, where he began birdwatching when he was four years old. For 16 years he has lived in Portal, AZ and guided birders visiting the town and nearby Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. On his property he maintains a bird feeding area that is open to visitors to date his feeders have attracted 218 species. Dave has led tours in the western U.S. and Mexico for a number of companies and non-profit organizations. He has also conducted numerous avian and botanical research projects for the U.S. Forest Service and other government agencies.
Kirt Kempter is a field geologist, teacher, and photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has conducted numerous tours and geologic expeditions around the world, from Antarctica to Iceland. Kirt received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study an active volcano in Costa Rica for his dissertation project. In recent years he has published numerous geologic maps and academic articles related to the geology of the Colorado Plateau and Rio Grande rift boundary in northern New Mexico. He is an avid photographer as well, and his innovative images, many of the areas we visit on the New Mexico: Geology in the Land of Georgia O’Keefe journey, can be found at geomosaics.com
Dodie Logue is an artist, a horse trainer and an avid birder. Her interest in birds has taken her all over the United States including Alaska, as well as Central and South America. She is a certified bird bander and has done surveys and banding in the U.S. and Ecuador. Dodie splits her time between the southwest and the midwest, where she has worked to turn her 120 acre farm back into a native landscape including wetlands and 50 acres of tall grass prairie. She has been involved with numerous citizen scientist projects and is a member of PAN (Project Art for nature), a group of midwest artists who make art about critical habitat and educate the public about it. She loves nothing better than spending all day out in the field hiking and observing.
Photo credit: Chris Benesh
Pat Lueders has been leading birding trips in the St. Louis area and Midwest for over 10 years. A love of traveling has taken her to many countries of the world and most of the US, often with Naturalist Journeys' trips. When not out birding, she is the coordinator of volunteers for a number of Citizen Science projects partnering with many agencies including U.S. Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Audubon, National Trumpeter Swan Society, and Missouri Department of Conservation. Pat serves on the boards of St. Louis Audubon & Audubon Society of Missouri and is on a bird banding team.
Michael has been an avid birder since childhood in England but decided, for reasons that now escape him, on a career in law. Meeting Donna Knox on a birding trip, however, changed all that and, in 1996, he gave up his work as solicitor general to the Cayman Islands Government to start a new venture as a birding guide. Michael and Donna initially moved to Cayman House in Rockport, then to the San Pedro River Inn and the Paton Birders’ Haven in S.E. Arizona, and are now happily back in Texas: this time in San Benito, an ideal base for Michael’s interest in the wildlife and history of South Texas. As well as regular tours in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, Michael has guided birding trips to Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama and has travelled extensively in Europe and the Americas. He met Peg Abbott being very gracious to Naturalist Journeys groups along Arizona’s San Pedro River. He now shares his guiding skills with us in Texas and beyond.
Bob Meinke started birding in earnest while an undergraduate in plant science at Humboldt State University in northern California. After graduate school he went on to join the botany faculty at Oregon State University (OSU), where he’s led the state’s Native Plant Conservation Biology Program (in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture) for over 25 years. Bob and his graduate students conducted research on the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered plants in the western U.S., focusing on life history and re-introduction studies, and have also discovered and named a number of plant species new to science. When not botanizing, Bob enjoys travel with his wife Kelly (also a botanist)—never having lost their early interest in birding, Bob and Kelly have traveled extensively over the years, searching for birds and other wildlife in areas as diverse as Papua New Guinea, southern India, Fiji and Tonga, Australia, Iceland, Brazil, and southwest Africa. They share a particular interest in the avifauna of Central America, and reside with their cats in an historic neighborhood in Corvallis, Oregon, a few blocks from the OSU campus.
Photo credit: Courtesy Bob Meinke
Xavier Muñoz's background is in tourism business administration and he also is also a professional bird-naturalist guide. Co-founder of Neblina Forest in 1994, Xavier collaborates with his peers in Ecuador and the USA, including Fundacion Jocotoco and Rainforest Trust; for Xavier, ecotourism and conservation walk together. Xavier has worked with Naturalist Journeys for more than six years, leading tours in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Trinidad & Tobago. He lives in Ecuador with his family and horses.
Photo credit: Demis Bucci Fotografia
Ed & Seliesa Pembleton
As Aldo Leopold said, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” Ed and Seliesa Pembleton count themselves among those who cannot. The couple delights in introducing children and adults to the wonders of the natural world. For over 30 years as educators, naturalists and conservationists the Pembletons have lead field trips to explore landscapes, celebrate wild things and marvel at the annual gathering of more than 500,000 Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska. As a 14-year employee of the National Audubon Society, Ed was instrumental in directing national and worldwide attention to the river and the cranes. As director of the Leopold Education Project, he promoted Aldo Leopold’s philosophy of land ethics. An accomplished photographer, Ed’s pictures appear in books and national magazines. Seliesa has written wildlife books for children, worked at the Smithsonian Institution and for 10 years was director of environmental studies at Hard Bargain Farm, an outdoor education facility on the Potomac River. She has been invited to Japan several times to teach environmental education “American style.” The couple enjoys birding, hiking, gardening and canoeing. They look forward to sharing their expertise on rivers and prairies on upcoming Naturalist Journey’s adventures.
Born in Miami, Florida, Carlos has had a fascination with wildlife since childhood. In college he began to bird in earnest throughout Florida, South America, and even Australia. Currently, Carlos sits on the board of the Tropical Audubon Society, is a regular contributor to the birding blog 10,000 Birds, and leads local tours through his company, EcoAvian Tours. He has also been a resident guide at lodges in both Ecuador and Brazil.
Greg spent over 20 years working as an ecologist managing sensitive bird species for California State Parks along the Central coast. His decision to promote to the Park Superintendent series allowed him to work directly with partners in conserving lands for the benefit of birds, people, and resources. And then he retired! Three days later he started his now eleven-year career with Naturalist Journeys by leading his first of over sixty tours. He had already traveled to all seven continents, and now has a Master Bird Banding permit, both of which made him a great fit to work with Peg and to lead natural history and birding tours to her exceptional array of tour locations. His relaxed style and breadth of knowledge makes his tours both educational and fun, all while exploring Naturalist Journeys' diverse locations and viewing the areas' distinctive birds, wildlife, and plant species. Two of his favorite past times are good food and photography, so take a peek at his Flickr site to see some of what he shares with those that join him on his tours.
Drs. Howard Topoff & Carol Simon
Drs. Howard Topoff and Carol Simon have been study leaders on natural history trips for over 20 years. Both are formerly professors at the City University of New York and Research Associates at the American Museum of Natural History. Howard Topoff has spent 40+ years researching the social behavior of animals. His field research has been conducted in Central and South America, Africa, and in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. In addition to his publications in scientific journals, his more popular articles have appeared in magazines such as Scientific American and Natural History. His research has been featured on National Geographic Television, and Scientific American Frontiers. Carol Simon is broadly trained in ecology, behavior and evolution. Her research on the social behavior of reptiles has taken her to many areas of North and Central America. Her current field research on reptile behavior is based in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. As an added bonus, Carol and Howard provide multimedia presentations that provide in-depth insights into the natural history of the regions visited.
Woody Wheeler is a master birder, a certified interpretive guide and owner of Conservation Catalyst, a birding and natural history firm based in Seattle, Washington. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Seattle Parks Foundation, as a naturalist and tour leader. He holds degrees in Environmental Education and Geography. Woody is a skilled interpreter and educator with special expertise in birds. To augment field experiences, he is a natural story teller and a former teacher. His approach is inclusive; he enjoys working with diverse groups of people, and likes to combine physical activity with nature study. He inspires people to appreciate nature and to have fun along the way.
Banner photo credit: Gustavo Cañas Valle by Peg Abbott.