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 Wednesdays)  from  October–May the Discovery Lecture Series is offered.
$7 per person (for the majority of programs)
Reservations required: call 843 689 6767 ext. 223 or register online.

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 2017-18 topics are listed below.

Discovery Lectures – 2018:

The Coastal Discovery Museum’s Discovery Lecture Series will address four overarching themes in its offerings between October and May. October and November will focus upon Sea Turtles, inviting experts from around the state to share their research, expertise, and conservation methods with our attendees. Please check back often for the updated schedule.


The Uniqueness of Port Royal Sound

Wednesday, February 28th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Kristen Marshall Mattson, Envrionmental Educator at the 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. Mattson is the co-instructor for the Master Naturalist program and the host of “Night Skies Over Beaufort County.”  Register Here.

A Loud Sound

Wednesday, March 7th – 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Christopher Kehrer – Naturalist and Education Coordinator at the Port Royal Sound Foundation

The Port Royal Sound is a unique estuary with a large biodiversity. One of the main families of fish found in the sound known as the drums is the family sciaenidae. This family includes black and red drums, spotted seatrout, and Atlantic croaker to name a few. These fish have thrived in the murky nutrient waters of the Lowcountry due to their unique ability to locate each other using sound. This talk is an in depth look at underwater acoustics, why fish vocalize and what stresses can effect fish reproduction. Christopher Kehrer, the naturalist and education coordinator at the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center, is the speaker.  Register Here.

The Secret Lives of Trees

Wednesday, March 21st – 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Sally Krebs – Town of Hilton Head Island Sustainable Practices Coordinator

Did you ever wonder how trees get food and water, how they interact with each other and with other organisms, or how an individual tree can survive for hundreds or thousands of years? Bring your curiosity and questions you always had about trees but were afraid to ask and come learn about the earth’s amazing trees!  Register Here.

Marine Predators of Port Royal Sound

Wednesday, March 28th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by David Harter – President of the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club, Project Director of the Hilton Head Reef Foundation

The quality and diversity of the major predators is often an indicator of the health of an ecosystem. For them to thrive requires a robust and dependable food chain with minimal human impact. The Port Royal Sound System is one of the most important deep water estuaries on the Atlantic Coast providing a nursing ground for a number of these important predators. Dave Harter, president of the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club and projects director for the Hilton Head Reef Foundation is our speaker.  Register Here.

Climate Change and the Lowcountry

Wednesday, April 4th – 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Sarah Watson – Coastal Climate and Resilience Specialist at the SC Sea Grant Consortium

Weather is what you wear. Climate is your wardrobe. This presentation will discuss the basic science behind climate change and sea level rise, as well as how the Lowcountry is affected by extreme weather and more frequent tidal flooding. Participants also will learn some of the ways we can address climate change and reduce impacts from the effects.

Sarah Watson is the Coastal Climate and Resilience Specialist at S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments. She helps communities and others prepare for the effects of extreme weather, flooding, sea level rise, and climate change. She holds a Masters in Public Policy and a Masters in City and Regional Planning, with concentrations in climate adaptation and coastal resilience, from Rutgers University, and a B.A. in Journalism from Temple University. Register Here.

Rising Seas, Raising Awareness

Wednesday, April 11th 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Kevin Mills – President and C.E.O. of the South Carolina Aquarium

Coastal dwellers everywhere can no longer ignore the obvious:  our seas are rising, and altering the course of our daily lives.  Learn what’s at risk in the Lowcountry, and what will be required to come to terms with a new reality shaped by the forces of climate change. Kevin Mills is President and CEO of the South Carolina Aquarium, which operates the Resilience Initiative for Coastal Education (R.I.C.E.). Register Here.

Reducing Plastic Pollution in the Lowcountry

Wednesday, April 18th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Rikki Parker – Project Manager and Legal Analyst for the Coastal Conservation League

In spite of best efforts, litter continues to be a major environmental concern for water quality, human health, and wildlife. Giant patches of garbage are accumulating in our world’s oceans. Microplastics make their way into our food systems, potentially impacting our local fisheries. Fortunately for our local waterways, citizens, business owners and governments are implementing strong measures to combat the problem. One of the most impressive successes is Beaufort County’s ban on single use plastic bags. Rikki will discuss the magnitude of the plastic pollution problem in the Lowcountry and how the county’s ban on single-use plastic bags was passed. Rikki Parker is a project manager and legal analyst for the Coastal Conservation League’s South Coast office. Register Here.

Sea Level Rise and the Lowcountry

Wednesday, April 25th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Dr. Chris Marsh – Executive Director of the Spring Island Trust and LowCountry Institute

Dr. Chris Marsh will give an overview of current patterns of climate change that are occurring locally and globally.  He will describe the science that drives weather patterns and how scientists are using this information to predict what the future holds for sea level rise and climate change in the Southeast. Dr. Marsh has over 40 years of experience working in habitats throughout North and South Carolina.   For the past 16 years he has served as Executive Director of both the Spring Island Trust and the LowCountry Institute, prior to moving to the Lowcountry, Dr. Marsh was a biology professor at Coastal Carolina University where he taught ornithology, ecology, and animal behavior.  Register Here.

Natural History and Archaeology of Beer

Wednesday, May 2nd- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Rex Garniewicz –  CEO, Coastal Discovery Museum

Beer is the foundation of civilized life as we know it.   Beginning 10,000 years ago, brewing led to the development of agriculture, settled life, and a myriad of other inventions.  This presentation will take you from ancient Mesopotamia, China, and Egypt to the jungles of the Amazon to learn some of the science behind how beer is made and to see how it has impacted our lives in ways we likely never think about.  You will view this beverage in a new light by the end of the lecture, even if beer isn’t your thing. Rex is the Director of the Coastal Discovery Museum and an archaeologist by training.  His PhD dissertation looked at the environmental effects of prehistoric agriculture in the Eastern United States. He curated an exhibition titled “BEERology” at the San Diego Museum of Man and is currently curating a traveling exhibition on Beer for the Smithsonian Institution.  As you might imagine, Rex is an avid home brewer, and on occasion drinks a beer or two. Register Here.

Human Impacts on Oyster Reefs

Wednesday, May 9th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Nancy Hadley – Shellfish Management Office Director – SC Department of Natural Resources

Oyster reefs are a critical habitat which supports multiple critical ecosystem roles.  According to a report by The Nature Conservancy, oyster reefs are the most endangered marine ecosystem on the planet.  As the Shellfish Program Manager for the Department of Natural Resources, Nancy Hadley has first-hand knowledge of how human activities are affecting oyster reefs in South Carolina.  In addition to calling out negative impacts, Ms. Hadley will suggest some behavior modifications that coastal residents can adopt to lessen their personal impact on this critical resource. Nancy Hadley has over 30 years as a shellfish biologist. Her main research interests are Oyster reef ecology, restoration, and conservation. Ms. Hadley also manages the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program, a community-based habitat restoration program.  Come learn why you should care about oyster reefs and how you can help conserve and restore these precious resources. Register Here.

Bee Biology and Natural History

Wednesday, May 16th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by David Arnal – Beekeeper

This presentation will focus on the two most commonly asked questions by the non-beekeeper 1.) What is happening to the bees? and 2,) What can I do to help the bees? We will attempt answer these questions through the lens of science with a particular focus on Bee Biology and the Natural History of the Honey Bee, including its introduction into North America right here in Beaufort County, South Carolina at the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena in 1564.  David Arnal is a local bee keeper with more than 50 colonies under his care in the Lowcountry. David has been growing bees for over 27 years, and his honey is for sale at several Farmers Markets and stores through around the Lowcountry including the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, where David keeps eight active colonies. David Arnal is the President of the Beaufort-Jasper Beekeepers Association in South Carolina. And teaches a class on advanced beekeeping at the Savannah Bee School. Register Here.

The ACE Basin

Wednesday, May 23rd – 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Nicholas Wallover – Regional Biologist for the ACE Basin

The ACE Basin is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries along the Atlantic Coast. The ACE Basin is an acronym that represents the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, which combine into the larger St. Helena Sound and drain a significant portion of the Lowcountry region. The 350,000 acre area is renowned for its natural beauty and commitment to preservation of marshes, wetlands, hardwood forests, and riverine systems and the various fauna that occupy the area. This large conservation area offers opportunities for recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing, boating, bird watching, hiking, bicycling, and other nature related activities The ACE Basin has been deemed “One of the Last Great Places” by The Nature Conservancy. Nicholas Wallover is currently the Regional Biologist for the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve and Manager of the McKenzie Field Station at Bennett’s Point. He has worked on numerous coastal protected species including sea turtles, shorebirds, and dolphins. Register Here.

Lowcountry Dragonflies

Wednesday, May 30th- 3 PM $7 per person
Presented by Vicky McMillan – Biologist, author of “Natural Lowcountry” in the Island Packet

This presentation addresses the dragonflies inhabiting Hilton’s Head’s lagoons. Find out how these fascinating insects feed, find mates, defend territories, and reproduce.   There will be a handout on some of the most common Hilton Head Island species.  If possible, live dragonfly larvae will be shown. After the program participants are invited to join Vicky on an exploration of the dragonfly pond at the museum’s grounds. Biologist Vicky McMillan was on the faculty of Colgate University, in Hamilton, NY, for 30 years, where she taught biology and scientific writing and conducted research on dragonfly behavior.  McMillan moved to Hilton Head Island in 2007, and continues to study and write about dragonflies, which have been a strong interest of hers since childhood. She also writes the “Natural Lowcountry” column for The Island Packet newspaper. Register Here.

History Forum of the Lowcountry:

Since 2013, the History Forum of the Lowcountry has invited guest presenters to discuss various aspects of Lowcountry history, culture, and experiences. Speakers have included professors, authors, community leaders, archivists, genealogists, museum professionals, and other experts in the field. Click here to see a list of past speakers and programs.


Reservations: Please call 843-689-6767, ext. 224

Rice and Rice Production in the Antebellum Lowcountry – SOLD OUT

March 1st – 3 PM – Dr. Richard Porcher (SC Historical Society)

Dr. Richard Porcher will discuss how rice culture helped to shape today’s landscape in the Lowcountry.  Beginning as cypress swamp and marsh, Dr. Porcher will show the changes that growing and cultivation made to the land from the 1600s to the 1900s. The landscape of South Carolina changed by growing one crop — RICE — and the commercial production of it was the greatest reason for the explosion of African slavery on the rice plantations.

A native South Carolinian, Dr. Richard Porcher received his undergraduate degree in biology from the College of Charleston and his Ph.D. in field botany from the University of South Carolina.  He was a biology professor at The Citadel for 33 years and is currently an Adjunct Full Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson University.  Dr. Porcher is the senior author of a book on South Carolina wildflowers and has published books on Carolina Lowcountry wildflowers, Sea Island cotton, and Carolina rice.  Currently he is working on two other books, serves on the board of directors of a library and a foundation, and is the recipient of awards in horticulture, the environment, and science in South Carolina.

Naval Station at Port Royal – 1883-1915

April 6th – 3 PM – Dr. Stephen Wise (Parris Island Museum)

The establishment of the Port Royal Naval Station in 1883, changed the dynamics of the Sea Islands. The facility promised a future based around an industrialized center that would propel the region into becoming the southeast’s premier maritime center. Its demise twenty years later began a spiral of economic depression that gripped the region until the beginning of World War Two. However, the naval station’s eventual conversion to a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, provided the sea islands with an economic mainstay that still provides an anchor for development and prosperity.

The talk will center on the history and establishment of the naval station, why it was established and why it was closed. Featured will be a number of important characters who were involved in the creation, demise and then resurrection of the military facility that has become the heart of the Lowcountry.

Dr. Stephen R. Wise is the director of the Parris Island Museum and the Cultural Resource Manager for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. He earned his bachelor degree from Wittenberg University, his master’s degree from Bowling Green State University, and his doctorate at the University of South Carolina. He’s written and edited a number of works including Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War and Gate of Hell: The Campaign for Charleston Harbor 1863. Dr. Wise is the co-author of Rebellion, Reconstruction and Redemption, The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 2, 1861-1893 and Bridging the Sea Islands’ Past and Present, 1893-2006: The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 3.

Charles Fraser and the early development of Sea Pines

May 21st – 3 PM – Will Bryan (Georgia State University)

In 1956, developer Charles Fraser embarked on ambitious plans to build a brand-new type of coastal resort, which he called Sea Pines Plantation, on Hilton Head Island. Sea Pines was revolutionary for its time. Drawing on new ecological principles and a host of environmental experts, Fraser worked to maintain a natural aesthetic and to protect parts of the island’s ecosystem. Yet he also ran headlong into environmental activists who criticized the construction of a resort on a fragile barrier island. This talk will assess Fraser’s role as perhaps the nation’s first “green” developer, and will consider how his complex legacy has influenced subsequent development in the Lowcountry.

Dr. William D. Bryan is an award-winning environmental historian and educator in Atlanta, Georgia. His first book, The Price of Permanence: Nature and Business in the New South, will be published by the University of Georgia Press in August of 2018. He is  working on his second book, Resorting to Nature, which will be the first history of coastal development in the Southeast.