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Speakers and Presenters

David Pitts | Tara Dowdy | David Haggard | Brian Roberts
Bob Ford | Joe Guinn | Carol Reese | Bart Jones


T. David Pitts

Dr. David PittsRaised on a small hill farm in northwest Tennessee (which makes him a hillbilly, not a flatlander), Dr. Pitts recently retired as Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He held this position from 1969-2013, and his primary responsibilities were teaching General Biology and Ornithology.

He has a B.S. from UT Martin and a Ph.D. from UT Knoxville. His thesis title was "Ecology of Eastern Bluebirds in Northwest Tennessee."

Dr. Pitts and his wife, Marion (a retired high school chemistry teacher), have two sons and two grandsons.

His research has concentrated on Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadees, Loggerhead Shrikes, and, most recently, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

His most appreciated awards are the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association's Outstanding Teacher Award and the North American Bluebird Society's Research Award.

Other interesting facts about Dr. Pitts:

  • charter member of North American Bluebird Society
  • constructed first nestboxes in mid-1950's
  • began bluebird studies in late 1960's
  • acquired banding permit in 1970
  • discovered method for determining the age of adult Eastern Bluebirds
  • documented the effects of harsh winter weather on Eastern Bluebirds
  • amateur photographer; uses only personal photographs in presentations; most widely distributed photo is of male bluebird that is on Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife license plate (which has raised about $6,000,000 for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's non-game programs)
  • 40+ publications in scientific journals
  • spent much of the summers of 2011, 2012, and 2013 searching for and observing hummingbird nests

Tara Dowdy

Tara DowdyTara Dowdy has worked for the West Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex since 2008, and is based at the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge. Her title is Park Ranger/Education and Volunteer Coordinator, and her typical duties are to supervise resident volunteers that work for the refuge, coordinate refuge events, present environmental education programs to local schools, conduct refuge quota hunts, manage refuge websites, etc. 

Tara graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a Bachelor of Science in National Resources Management.  She lives with her husband and two boys (1 & 3 yr. old) in a small, quiet community outside Martin, Tenn.  Her hobbies are spending time with her boys and teaching them about the outdoors, playing music and camping. 

David Haggard

David Haggard has worked for the Tennessee State Parks for 25 years as Ranger Naturalist. He developed the bird of prey rehab and environmental education program at Reelfoot Lake State Park utilizing injured birds of prey including our National symbol the Bald Eagle.

Bart Jones

Bart JonesGrowing up in Parsons, Tenn.,  afforded Bart Jones the luxury to indulge his curiosity of all things science and nature.  The forests, streams, and fields surrounding his home became an outdoor laboratory where no wildflower, rock, or insect escaped scrutiny, but it was butterflies that held a special interest for him. 

That passion for butterflies was rekindled about ten years ago when Rita Venable invited him to participate in a North American Butterfly Association count.  Bart now conducts counts throughout West Tennessee, as well as helping on others.

After receiving a degree in Biology from UT-Martin, Bart made his home in Memphis where he is employed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as an Associate Scientist in the Department of Infectious Diseases. 

Besides his professional work and butterfly activities, he is a past president of the Tennessee Native Plant Society as well as a member of many other botanical societies and local conservation groups.

Bob Ford

Bob FordBob Ford graduated with a B.S. and Master's from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where his Master's Thesis documented the breeding and wintering bird communities in West Tennessee wetlands. 

Since his graduation, he has worked mainly as a migratory bird biologist for several agencies, organizations and the forest  products industry, integrating breeding bird conservation into forestry plans.  

Bob was instrumental in the development of the bird conservation initiative "Partners in Flight" and served as the southeast chair and coordinator for several years.  He started with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000, and served in the Washington Office as the United States staff for the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, where he helped forge conservation partnerships between Mexico, Canada and the United States.  In addition, he was the leader for the first ever "State of the Birds" report for the United States in 2010. 

Currently, Bob is back in the southeast region for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where he serves as the agency's lead for understanding and adapting to climate change impacts to fish and wildlife populations and habitats.

Joe Guinn

Joe GuinnJoe Guinn is a noted photographer who has trained with Cornell University to record and indentify birds by their sounds. His recordings are a part of the Cornell University archives.

Carol Reese

Carol ReeseCarol Reese is employed by UT Extension as an Ornamental Horticulture Specialist. She writes a weekly gardening and nature column for the Jackson Sun, has served as the Q&A columnist for Horticulture Magazine, and contributes to many other gardening magazines.

Carol’s degrees in horticulture (B.S. and M.S.) are from Mississippi State University where she taught courses in plant materials and landscape design. Her speaking engagements take her around the nation, however, she says her favorite place to be is tromping local fields with her many dogs, birding and botanizing.

Brian Roberts

Brian RobertsBrian Roberts is the Wildlife Refuge Manager for Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge with the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service. As a Refuge Manager his primary duties include coordinating and executing refuge operations and maintenance, education, public use, habitat restoration, and law enforcement. A native of Chattanooga, Brian grew up exploring the outdoors, camping with his family, backpacking, as well as hunting and fishing in local woods and streams. Brian knew he wanted a career where he could incorporate his passion for nature and conservation with his daily job. Brian received his B.S in Forestry with a minor in wildlife management from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Throughout his career, he has worked in various realms of forestry and wild land management. Brian considers himself fortunate to have a career that is fulfilling both professionally and personally.


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