Throughout the year, the Museum offers lectures and discussions about the Lowcountry’s history, culture, and environment. Topics vary and guest presenters come from around the region.

Select weekdays (typically Mondays and Wednesdays)  from  October–May the Discovery Lecture Series is offered.
$7 per person (for the majority of programs) – In 2020, an online option will be available for $5 per registration. Please check our event calendar to register.

The Coastal Discovery Museum also offers a History Forum of the Lowcountry series. Check the event calendar or call for other lectures, talks and guest speakers offered throughout the year. These programs are $10 per person for non members, $5 for basic members, and free for supporting and above membership levels. The next History Forum program will be in January 2021.

Discovery Lectures – 2020:

The Museum will be relaunching on-site Discovery Lectures in October. A limited number of “in person” registrations will be allowed. Online registration is also available. Once registered, a link to the streaming program will be emailed to participants.

The Disestablishment of America: Southeastern Native Americans and European Contact

Monday, November 23rd – 2 PM
Rich Thomas – Author

The impact of European contact and settlement on Native Americans was devastating to the traditional culture and established authority patterns, to the extent it forced the dissolution of Indian nations and the disappearance of hundreds of tribes after only 150 years.  Explore how the principal chiefdoms of the Southeast were corrupted and destroyed by the presence and influence of Europeans in their midst.

Former global executive and change management and organizational effectiveness consultant to corporations, Richard Thomas received a BA Degree in East Asian Studies from Princeton University with a minor in cultural anthropology and did graduate field work with the Siam Society and Thammasat University in Thailand.  A successful entrepreneur, he has built five companies and has served as either CEO or Executive Officer and Board member of each, and he was a senior executive with several start–up companies in the Cable TV programming industry including HBO and Comcast.  Blending his avid interest in American military history with his background in leadership and team consulting, Thomas has designed and presented programs to hundreds of corporate executive groups at dozens of locations in the U.S. and Europe.  He has recently begun a similar business, called Lowcountry Legacy Leadership, offering programs based on events in local area history for both local companies and groups visiting the area.  Mr. Thomas lives with his wife Suzanne in Hilton Head Island, SC.  Register Here

Marine Invertebrates of the Lowcountry – Just Scratching the Surface

Monday, November 30th – 2 PM
Chris Keher – Port Royal Sound Foundation

Invertebrates are the most abundant organisms on our planet and thousands of species can be found right here in our Lowcountry. Naturalist Chris Kehrer will review some of our most common and bizarre inverts that you may encounter on the beach or out in the water.

Christopher Kehrer is the naturalist and education coordinator at the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center where he maintains and cares for the animals while providing local environmental education programs for kids throughout Beaufort County. He is a graduate from the University of South Carolina in Beaufort where he worked in Dr. Eric Montie’s marine bio-acoustic lab working on acoustic fish files and publishing several papers.  Register Here

Shrimp Tales

Wednesday, December 2nd – 2 PM
Beverly Jennings – Author

The first of its kind, this unique photo book portrays the people, places, and boats that tell the fascinating story of the commercial shrimping industry in the Southeast. The book begins with the region’s earliest shrimpers: Italian and Portuguese fishermen who came to Fernandina and St. Augustine at the end of the 19th century and turned shrimping into a profitable industry. Hundreds of historical and recent photos provide perspectives on life in the major shrimping ports up and down the coast, such as St. Augustine, Thunderbolt, Port Royal, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Bennetts Point, Edisto, Rockville, Shem Creek, McClellanville and Georgetown. One chapter offers a colorful glimpse of the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies, while another examines the integral role that shrimpers played in keeping the German chemical company BASF from building a plant that could have devastated the local fishery. This event may have saved the future of many seaside resorts like Hilton Head that depended on clean waters. Based on years of research and relentless pursuit of the images that tell the tale, this book is more than just a photo history. It is a story of a community and culture.

My love of the saltwater and fishing began when I was 6 years old in Connecticut. At that time, my father built me a white wooden rowboat with red trim named Little Fish. Fiber-glassing was in its infancy, and a friend of his suggested that he try using it. He covered the boat with a cloth and topped it with pink fiberglass resin. I loved rowing that boat, and used to take friends out to their anchored boats for sailing and fishing. 20 years ago, we bought a home on Hilton Head Island, a place we had first started visiting in 1997. Living here enhanced my fascination with the Lowcountry and the waters surrounding it. This led me in 2010 to enroll in the Clemson Extension Service Master Naturalist Program. The program introduced me to Kathryn Mills, who was just starting to transform the Lemon Island Marina, Okatie, SC, into the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center. I was invited to create exhibits on the history of shrimping, crabbing and oystering.  This book is a natural extension of the 10 years I spent researching and writing about the Lowcountry. I have interviewed well over 100 fishermen, biologists and other people involved in the shrimp industry. Proceeds of this book will be donated to the South Carolina Seafood Alliance. My goal is to preserve the history of the shrimping industry, which has much less written about it than oystering and crabbing. My hope is that I have preserved some of this unique Lowcountry history. Shrimpers and their families have been amazingly generous in sharing their photographs, stories and support. The research of the East coast commercial shrimping industry and especially the people who make their living fishing the open waters of the Atlantic have become a major passion for me, and with this book I want to honor them. I cannot tell you have much I have gained from their friendships.  Register Here

16th Century Navigation

Monday, December 7th – 2 PM
Doug Nelson & Howard Heckrotte

Today we move about with the aid of satellite-based navigation tools and Internet maps. Researchers are even confident that we will have self-driving vehicles in just a few years. This course allows you to learn the art of navigation and to discover the methods sailors used 500 years ago. Learn from master navigators Howard Heckrotte and Doug Nelson to plot a course using a sextant, quadrant, compass, and chronometer. Learn how these 16th Century tools advanced European discovery and exploration of the New World.

Doug Nelson is a member of the Beaufort Sail & Power Squadron, a squadron of the United States Power Squadrons (USPS), the largest boating organization in the world having about 40,000 members. Doug was commander of the squadron 2002 and 2003. He has a “Senior Navigator” designation, the highest qualification in USPS which requires successful examinations in over 18 courses. Doug is a USCG approved boating courses instructor, USCG Vessel Safety Inspector and USCG Boat Operator Certification instructor and certifier. He chairs “Cooperative Charting” set up to update local charts for NOAA. He has passed the USCG captains examination. Doug teaches Advanced Piloting (advanced coastal navigation) and celestial courses including the Annapolis based course “Navigation” which comprises both celestial and electronic navigation (off shore navigation). Doug’s sailing experience spans 40 years in Great Britain, the Mediterranean, Bahamas, Great Lakes and the USA. In 2013 he was awarded the USPS Order of Mariners for services to education and navigation.

Howard Heckrotte is a US Coast Guard veteran and longtime member of Beaufort Sail & Power Squadron. He was Commander of the Squadron in 1994.  Howard’s extensive sea experience ranges from Alaska to the Eastern coastal south. A dedicated sailor in both sail & power, he brings decades of experience in seamanship and advanced pilotage navigation to the Santa Elena Foundation’s research team. Concurrent with his Advanced Pilot designation, Howard has attended the American Sailing Association’s advanced sailing courses thus further honing his maritime skills. Guided by the scholars, Howard’s research at the University of South Carolina (Beaufort) has greatly advanced our understanding of the North Atlantic voyages of Pedro Menendez and Jean Ribault.  Together with co-navigator Doug Nelson, his production of numerous routes on charts, a plethora of calculations and many, many days of study and discussion from December, 2015 on, he has produced a body of original work giving a clearer understanding of the situation at sea in 1565.  Register Here

The Great Race – 1565. France versus Spain or Spain versus France?

Wednesday, December 9th – 2 PM
Doug Nelson & Howard Heckrotte

In 1565 both France and Spain set out for Florida to establish ownership not only of the Florida peninsula, but the whole of perceived North America. Both countries were driven by rampant greed and lust for new lands and also gold, silver, slaves, and anything else of perceived value. Our talk is about a “great race.” It will cover the different routes taken by the protagonists  (Jean Ribault for France and the great Pedro Menendez De Aviles for Spain.) Both Ribault and Menendez had experience of the Florida destination but this was the final showdown. In presenting this story we will be touching on the navigational tools and techniques of these sailors –many of which we use today. In particular we can credibly posit where each of these adventurers were at different dates. We have the start/ arrive dates for each from correspondence which still exists. So how do we put forward positions of ships at different dates en voyage?  Curiously, we can do this due to an American invention some 300 years later! (See program above for speaker biographies.) Register Here

The Uniqueness of Port Royal Sound

Monday, December 14th – 2 PM
Kristen Mattson – LowCountry Institute

The Port Royal Sound stands apart from other estuaries on the East coast. It is a submerged coastline created by rising sea level, exceptionally high tides, and unique geology. The result is a vast expanse of salt marsh, a critical marine habitat. Come learn about this unique environment and how it was formed, as well as about the fantastic biodiversity that lives here.

Kristen Marshall Mattson is an environmental educator for the LowCountry Institute and Spring Island Trust. She is a co-instructor of the Master Naturalist program and host of “Night Skies Over Beaufort County”. She has a background teaching biology in higher education and holds a master’s degree in ecology from the University of Florida.  Register Here

Carolina Wetlands: Climate Change and Resiliency

Wednesday, December 16th
Rick Savage

Join us in welcoming Rick Savage from the Carolina Wetlands Association to learn more about various types of wetlands in the Carolinas, efforts to protect them, and how they are impacted by climate change. The Carolina Wetlands Association, based in North Carolina, works with communities to restore wetlands, create community resilience and environmental equity, to mitigate climate change effects. Find out more about their work and ways you can help protect at-risk wetlands in our area.

Rick began his career as a systems engineer at IBM working in network and system management design after receiving a BS in experimental psychology and MS in systems engineering at Va. Tech.  In 1998, he left IBM to pursue his ecology dreams by getting a second master’s degree from NC State in Natural Resource Management. He worked for the State of NC in 2004, in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality, doing wetlands monitoring research for the US EPA.  The wetlands monitoring work became highly regarded by the EPA as they sent him across the nation to talk about the work and results in NC.  In 2011, the EPA performed it National Wetland Condition Assessment where Rick worked with EPA scientists and other state scientists to develop the sampling protocols.  In 2012, Rick was put in charge of a regional wetland assessment coordinating with SC, GA, and AL.  This work became part of the EPA report of the 2011 Natural Wetland Condition Assessment. Rick left State government in 2015 and formed the nonprofit, Carolina Wetlands Association to maintain a public focus on the value of wetlands where he was elected President and has remained in that position to the present.  The organization promotes wetlands through science-based programs, education, and advocacy.  He was also elected as Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Wetland Forest Initiative in 2016. In 2018, Rick was asked to be a part of the Governor’s Natural and Working Land workgroup to develop plans for extensive forest and wetland restoration to sequester carbon, increase our ecosystem services and increase resiliency of communities to deal with climate change.  Currently, Carolina Wetlands Association is working with communities to restore wetlands, create community resilience and environmental equity, to mitigate climate change effects.  Register Here

Winter Raptors

Monday, January 4th
Aaron Palmieri – Palmetto Bluff Conservancy

We are fortunate to have a large diversity of raptors grace the skies over the Lowcounty and the winter is the best time to observe the greatest variety!  Join Aaron Palmieri, Palmetto Bluff Conservancy educator, as he introduces us to the fierce avian predators found throughout Beaufort County during the winter.   Aaron Palmieri is the educator for the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy where he leads nature hikes, provides educational lectures, and assists with research and land management that occurs throughout Palmetto Bluff.  He attended Oregon State University where he received his B.S. in Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences with a focus on birds and is the experienced birder of the Conservancy team.  Register Here

“The Day of Jubilee Has Come” – The Dawn of Reconstruction in the SC Lowcountry

Wednesday, January 6th – 2 PM (Virtual Only)
Chris Barr – National Park Service

On January 1st, 1863, the men of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers were presented with a flag emblazoned with the phrase “The Day of Jubilee Has Come.” But the day of jubilee was only the beginning. What happened here in the South Carolina Lowcountry was the birth of a decades long process to reconstruct the American social, political, and economic landscape – a story now told by Reconstruction Era National Historical Park.

Chris Barr is the supervisory interpretive ranger at Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. He has worked for the National Park Service for eight years, previously at Andersonville National Historic Site and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, where he conducted programs and research on Reconstruction in those locations. Register Here

Cultural and Natural History of Port Royal Sound

Monday, January 11th
Rich Thomas – Author

Cultural and Natural History of Port Royal Sound examines the geology, hydrology, natural and human history of the Port Royal Sound watershed area of South Carolina and explores the reasons its history is so deep, diverse and rich. Discover why early civilizations and colonies so highly regarded its shores and how the unique features of its environment have been utilized by successive periods of inhabitants.

Former global executive and change management and organizational effectiveness consultant to corporations, Richard Thomas received a BA Degree in East Asian Studies from Princeton University with a minor in cultural anthropology and did graduate field work with the Siam Society and Thammasat University in Thailand.  A successful entrepreneur, he has built five companies and has served as either CEO or Executive Officer and Board member of each, and he was a senior executive with several start–up companies in the Cable TV programming industry including HBO and Comcast.  Blending his avid interest in American military history with his background in leadership and team consulting, Thomas has designed and presented programs to hundreds of corporate executive groups at dozens of locations in the U.S. and Europe.  He has recently begun a similar business, called Lowcountry Legacy Leadership, offering programs based on events in local area history for both local companies and groups visiting the area.  Mr. Thomas lives with his wife Suzanne in Hilton Head Island, SC.   Register Here

Right Whales: Our Coastal Visitors

Wednesday, January 13th
Michael Williamson

Professor Williamson will introduce Right Whales and the current status and research on this species.  The effects of climate change on this species will also be discussed.

Associate Professor Michael Williamson has been active in education and research for over 40 years. He founded WhaleNet in 1993 to excite students about math, science, the environment, and technology (STEM). He is also Vice-president of the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, which has conducted the longest continuous research program on blue whales in the world, since 1979. Williamson, an Associate Professor of Science at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts 1988-2008, is currently Scientist in Residence at St. Mary’s Anglican Girls School in Perth, Western Australia where he teaches and advises on marine science education and research.  He was also a pioneer in Massachusetts whale research as the founder and director of the Pelagic Systems Research & Massachusetts Whale Watch which began studying cetaceans in Massachusetts Bay in 1976.  Register Here

Santa Elena – The Pocahontas Connection

Monday, January 18th
Chris Allen

A presentation centered upon the Spanish interaction with the American natives who eventually became known as “The Powhatan Confederation” more than forty years before the English arrived on the same site.  The presentation defines what and where “Ajacan” was by walking through the story of Paquiquinejo, an Algonquin ruling class member taken to Spain in 1561, his conversion to Catholicism and name change to “Don Luis Valesco”, and subsequent murder of Jesuits within walking distance of where Jamestown would be established.  The “Ajacan Mission” was launched from Santa Elena and included the son of the colony’s tailor.  At a minimum, Powhatan Confederation leadership was well versed on European habits and intentions thirty-seven years before Jamestown was founded.  At a maximum, Paquiquinejo was Pocahontas’ grandfather.  It is more probable that Paquiquinejo was Powhatan’s brother, Opechancanaugh…captor of Captain John Smith in 1607 from which the Pocahontas legend is derived.

Christopher Allen is a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel.  He last returned from Afghanistan in 2017.  Long before retirement, he committed to making Beaufort County his home in 2001 and has been consumed by our county’s unique history ever since.  He served on the Santa Elena Foundation Board of Directors.  Register Here

Blewits, Humpbacks, Bird’s Nests, and Other Mushroom Adventures

Wednesday, January 20th
Alan Biggs

Blewits, Humpbacks, Bird’s Nests, and Other Mushroom Adventures provides a fun introduction to the higher fungi along with some history, folklore, biology, and ecology of some of our more common Lowcountry mushrooms. Discover why mushrooms have fascinated humankind for millennia and take home some basic information to help you begin

Alan Biggs is a native of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and completed his undergraduate degree in Forest Biology having attended Bucknell University and Penn State University. He received his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Penn State in 1982 and joined the research scientist staff at the Agriculture Canada Vineland Research Station in 1983. In 1989, he joined the faculty of West Virginia University where he taught until his retirement at the end of 2016. Dr. Biggs is recognized internationally for his research on fungal diseases and defense mechanisms in woody plants. Biggs and his colleagues made major advances in understanding the epidemiology of several important tree diseases, with an emphasis on determining the effects of host development and environment on infection. He is the author or co-author of two books, over 95 refereed journal articles, and numerous articles in trade journals, extension fact sheets, and newsletters. He served many years on the American Phytopathological Society publications board and was Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Plant Disease. Biggs has led mushroom forays since his grad school days and continues to write articles for the journal FUNGI. Register Here

Lowcountry Amphibians

Monday, January 25th
Jake Zadik

Register Here

Mitchelville Preservation Project

Wednesday, January 27th
Ahmad Ward

Register Here

These programs may be scheduled later in the year. Please check back for updated information soon!

Microplastics and Pollution in Charleston Harbor

Sarah Kell

Sarah Kell will discuss the scope of microplastic pollution in the Charleston Harbor watershed as well as share current research projects of the Weinstein laboratory and the outcomes of their science communication efforts.

Sarah Kell is a candidate for a M.S. degree in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston.  Her thesis research is focused on assessing the fate and effects of microplastics and tire wear particles in Charleston Harbor.   She obtained her B.S. in Marine Biology in 2006 at the University of West Florida.  Prior to returning to school, she worked at the U.S. EPA as a Research Biologist studying the effects of temperature, UV radiation, and sedimentation on corals.  Sarah later worked at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as an Environmental Specialist in the Environmental Resources Program and the Office of Emergency Response.  During her time at FDEP, she served as the State Liaison for 3+ years during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response.

Research and Conservation of our Estuarine Finfish Population

Erin Levesque – Waddell Mariculture Center

The Estuarine Finfish Section at the Marine Resources Division (SCDNR) is tasked with utilizing long-term fishery monitoring programs, genetic tools and culture of marine finfish in order to effectively and responsibly inform management of popular finfish species. If you are a recreational angler or if you are interested in our rich estuarine ecosystem, this program will explain how the biologists of the SCDNR sample fish populations in our coastal environment and design research questions with the goal of protecting and preserving our marine resources.

Southeastern Coastal Birds

Paul Weatherhead

Birds have been an indicator species for our entire world history and all over the globe.  Migratory birds travel 20,000 miles from the tip of Argentina in the south to the Arctic Circle in the north.  Come see pictures of some of these fascinating birds that live and pass through Hilton Head Island.  Learn about the challenges and successes in preserving our birdlife.  Discover where you can see birdlife on-line and in real life in the low country.

For over 25 years Paul Weatherhead has taught college classes at the University of Virginia and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.  He is also a docent at the Coastal Discovery Museum.  When Paul moved to Hilton Head Island 14 years ago he was so impressed with the area’s birdlife he took up photography and joined the HHI Audubon Society.

The Ecology and Natural History of South Carolina Salt Marshes

Christopher Kehrer

Salt Marshes play a critical role in the health of our oceans and are nursing grounds for 75% of our commercial fish. During this lecture, learn why marshes are so productive, how they change over time, how resilient and fragile they can be and why we must do all that we can to protect them. Christopher Kehrer is the Naturalist and education coordinator at the Port Royal Sound Foundation. Chris was raised in the lowcountry and earned his bachelor’s in biology at USCB which focused in coastal ecology. While attending USCB Chris conducted research on sound producing fish that thrive in murky estuarine waters.

Common Pesticides – What are we using in the garden?

Debbi Albanese

Debbi Albanese is a SC Master Naturalist and recent graduate of Georgia Southern University with an M.S. in Biology. The research for her thesis showed unexpected negative effects of herbicides on butterflies and earthworms. In this lecture, she will review some commonly used pesticides, how pesticides are approved by the EPA for use by homeowners and introduce the idea of integrated pest management.

Southern Forest and Climate Change

Dana Smith