Birding, Environmental Authors Headline ‘Ding’ Darling 2024 Free Lecture Series

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Birds, wildlife hurricane survival, electronic screens, toxic waste, and trash: What do they all have in common? They are the topics of six speakers who fill the free “Ding” Darling Lecture Series this season for the 19th year at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, returning to the refuge for the first time since 2020. The lectures take place Jan. 18 through March 21 twice daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on certain Thursdays throughout the season.

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) co-hosts the lectures with the refuge and through financial support from sponsors. Note: Opinions expressed in guest lectures do not necessarily reflect the views of refuge and DDWS management, staff, and board of directors.

During the COVID outbreak, DDWS switched venues to The Community House on Sanibel Island to accommodate distancing. In 2023, Hurricane Ian leveled damage too severe to both venues and the entire island to host the lecture series.

“We are so ecstatic to welcome home this long-loved refuge tradition,” said DDWS Executive Director Ann-Marie Wildman. “We have scheduled an impressive line-up of speakers to herald the occasion.”

Seating for the free lectures is limited on a first-come basis. Early arrivals can check in and save their seat and one extra with personal items ahead of lecture times and then can explore the Visitor & Education Center or Wildlife Drive and trails before the lecture starts. Saved seats must be filled 15 minutes before lecture time or risk being reassigned.

The series begins with a lecture that also kicks off 2024 Wellness in Nature at “Ding” on Jan. 18. Dr. Sabine Grunwald, a professor in the Soil, Water, and Ecosystem Sciences Department at the University of Florida in Gainesville, speaks on the topic “Unplug to Re-Connect: How Less Time on Screens Makes You a Happier Person.”

Below is the calendar of all scheduled lectures and their sponsors. Book-signings will follow all starred (*) lectures.

DDWS also hosts a two-lecture Distinguished Authors series this season. Barbara and daughter Lily Kingsolver and Carl Hiaasen headline the ticketed series. Visit for more information on both series. To learn more about sponsoring or co-sponsoring a lecture, contact April Boehnen at

• January 18: Dr. Sabine Grunwald, “Unplug to Re-Connect: How Less Time on Screens Makes You a Happier Person”
• *January 25: Author/artist Richard Crossely, “The Power of Birding” (Co-sponsor: The Gresham Family)
• *February 1: Author James Currie, When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer (Co-sponsor: Jacqueline Aleandri)
• March 7: Author/environmentalist Diane Wilson, “One Woman’s Fight to Save Our Waters from Microplastic Pollution”
• *March 14: Author/Sanibel islander Charles Sobczak, “Surviving the Storms – Hurricanes, Humans, and Wildlife”
• March 21: Recycling expert Stephanie Kissinger, “Talking Trash: Post-Hurricane Clean-Up and Recycling”
NOTE: Book signings will follow all lectures marked with an asterisk (*)

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop profits. To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit or Ann-Marie Wildman at 239-789-8991 or

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