Keynote Speakers

SERSTN is delighted to announce the Keynote Speakers for the 2023 Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting. Dr. Mariana Fuentes will present on Wednesday, March 1 while Dr. Kate Mansfield and Dr. Nia Morales will present on Thursday, March 2. The meeting will kick off with a very special introduction by wildlife biologist and television personality, Jeff Corwin!

For nearly quarter of a century Jeff Corwin has shared his passion for nature, exploration, and adventure with a global audience. He has produced and hosted over a dozen series on networks like Animal Planet, Discovery, Travel Channel and ABC, focusing on powerful stories of wildlife and conservation. Jeff’s television work has earned top industry awards including four Emmys. Jeff is an author of over 10 acclaimed books on nature. As a nationally recognized expert of conservation, Jeff has also served as an environmental correspondent for CNN, NBC, and CBS. His next project will focus on the natural treasures of Florida where he will tell the stories of everyday Floridians from local citizens to scientists, who have dedicated their lives to protecting regional wildlife and restoring vulnerable environments found nowhere else on earth!


Dr. Mariana Fuentes, Associate Professor at Florida State University, is  a marine  turtle conservation biologist, whose research provides critical scientific basis to aid the recovery of marine turtles. Her research draws together a wide range of disciplines, and she often work closely with various stakeholders on interdisciplinary research topics and management issues. Her expertise is in integrating field-based ecology with systematic conservation planning, decision-theory approaches, climate modelling, and applied qualitative and geographic spatial analysis. She uses these tools to explore how marine  turtles, interact with environmental processes and how they are impacted by current and future disturbances. Dr. Fuentes is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle specialist group, and the creator of the Marine Turtle Research, Ecology and Conservation Group at Florida Sate University.


Dr. Kate Mansfield is an Associate Professor, Director of the Marine Turtle Research Group, and Davis-Shine Endowed Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Central Florida (Biology Department). Her research program focuses on sea turtle biology, ecology, behavior, and conservation across all sea turtle life stages—from eggs to adults. Dr. Mansfield’s lab provides field-based educational and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students, and scientific advisory service to local, state, and international science and management entities.

Kate received a BA in Biology and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College, an MA in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami, and a PhD in Marine Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. After completing her Ph.D. she moved to Florida where she held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Florida International University, and NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center as a National Academies NRC postdoctoral fellow. She has worked with sea turtles since 1994 including more than 20 years of nesting beach work as well as in-water sea turtle handling and tagging experience using satellite, radio and acoustic telemetry to track all life stages of sea turtle. Kate’s research and field sites include long-term monitoring of nesting beach and coastal juvenile sea turtle habitats in central Florida, including one of the most important nesting habitats in the western hemisphere, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. She and her lab also conduct research on the oceanic “lost years” including satellite tracking work in the Gulf of Mexico, North and South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

Follow her lab on social media:
Instagram and Twitter: @UCFTurtleLab


Dr. Nia Morales is an assistant professor of human dimensions of wildlife in the University of Florida’s Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (WEC) where her teaching and research generally focus on the role of social science in the conservation of fish and wildlife including conservation communication and stakeholder engagement in natural resource decision making. Dr. Morales received her Bachelor’s and PhD from the University of Florida in WEC and has a Masters of Environmental Education from Florida Atlantic University. Previous to her faculty role, Dr. Morales was head of the Center for Conservation Social Science Research within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, where she led a team of social scientists that provided support for the development and implementation of social science inquiry that helped FWC better understand the complex relationships between humans and the management of natural resources.