Our Mission: To preserve and protect the animals, plants, and natural communities
in Indian River County through advocacy, education, and public awareness.
About Pelican Island Audubon Society
  • President Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
  • 1st Vice President Donna Halleran
  • 2nd Vice President David Cox, Ph.D.
  • Recording Secretary Darlene Halliday
  • Corresponding Secretary George Glenn, Jr.
  • Treasurer Steve Goff

See below for a list of previous PIAS Presidents

Elected Directors, term expires
  • Graham Cox, Ph.D., 2017
  • Bill Halliday, 2020
  • Nancy Irvin, 2019
  • Bill Loftus, Ph.D., 2018
  • Toni Robinson, 2019
  • Bonnie Swanson, 2018

Appointed Board Members

  • Susan Lovelace
  • Tina Marchese

History & Accomplishments

Pelican Island Audubon Society (PIAS) is considered the voice of conservation for Indian River County. We have one half-time paid administrative assistant, 967 members, and volunteers on as need basis to accomplish our mission to preserve and protect the animals, plants, and natural communities in Indian River County (IRC) through advocacy, education, and public awareness. Our strategic goal includes: building a nature center on or near a county conservation area or national wildlife refuge both along the Indian River Lagoon called Audubon House to be a resource and base for training naturalists, hosting visitors and reaching out, providing stewardship, and educating the public about conservation issues.  We have raised $555,000 in donations and pro bono contributions.  

  • 1961: Started as the Indian River Preservation Society by local citrus growers, commercial fishermen, sportsmen and concerned citizens.  Mobilized to stop bad dredge & fill housing project adjacent to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s 1st refuge.   Then expanded PINWR’s boundaries.
  • 1964: Became a Chapter of Florida Audubon.  The Voice of Conservation in Indian River County. One of 500 Chapters and Centers within the National Audubon Society.  Mission: “to preserve and protect the animals, plants, and natural communities in Indian River County through advocacy, education, and public awareness.”  Ongoing activities: High-school/College environmental scholarships, monthly speakers in both Sebastian & Vero Beach, birding and pontoon-boat trips, Press-Journal Bird Photo of the Month with natural-history information, a community resource, and annual awards.
  • 1986: Organized first U.S. coastal clean-up.  Recognized by the Dept of Interior.  Now international effort.
  • 1986 to 1990: Helped pass nighttime beach-lighting ordinances to protect sea turtle hatchlings in Vero Beach Indian River Shores. This has led to 90 other countries and hundreds of thousands of volunteers annually banning nighttime beach lighting.
  • 1988: Started the Environmental Learning Center.
  • 1991: Charter member IRC Land Acquisition Advisory Committee.  Facilitated 2 bonds: 1992- $26 M, 2004- $50 M.  $136 M total with matching funds for Conservation, Ag, & Historical Lands.  35 Parcels for Total Acres = 9,702.82 Acres.
  • 1997-2007: With Pelican Island Elementary   Principal Bonnie Swanson to purchase of 18 lots of scrub jay habitat that became the Pelican Island Audubon’s Martha Wininger Reflection Park.
  • 2004: Led community efforts to rewrite county’s: Tree ordinance.
  • 2004: Published Reflections of Blue Cypress Lake, 2004-2012 raising $50,000.
  • 2007: Voted Best Audubon of Florida Chapter of the Year .
  • 2007: Led community efforts to rewrite county’s: Landscaping Ordinance.
  • 2007: Led a community effort with IRC to challenge a land swap proposed by SJRWMD that would have traded exceptional quality conservation lands to a private developer to settle a legal action threatened by that developer.
  • 2007-2014: Raised funds for new Audubon House adjacent to ORCA and the University of Florda.
  • 2009-2012: Major Community Partnership Effort to develop ‘Quality of Life’ Indicators for a sustainable Indian River County to measure & achieve a balance among social, economic, and environmental factors in our communities.
  • 2010: Published "Indian River County Water Coming and Going" - a booklet, written by PIAS board member, Debby Ecker.  Available free on the PIAS website. Supported by Audubon Florida Grant.
  • 2011: Partnered with Sebastian Inlet State Park to develop a “Basic Birding” video for the PIAS and State Park’s websites, and on YouTube, to enable photographers and birders to identify local birds.
  • 2011: Stopped a County dredge-and-fill project at the Oslo Rd. Boat ramp.
  • 2011: Voted Best Audubon Florida Chapter of the Year.
  • 2011: Partnered with USFWS to give away Jane Schnee’s free Christmas trees.
  • 2012-14: How to Catch a Fish, Not a Pelican!  - a joint PIAS/Sebastian Inlet State Park pamphlet on how to safely remove a fish hook from a pelican.  Now republished by over 20 organizations in FL.
  • 2012-14: Partnering with Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (our namesake) to produce QR code signs to provide a quick source of information to visitors.
  • 2013: Initiated The Indian river Lagoon Coalition and Call to Action
  • 2013-14:  Square Foot Gardening project - We obtained funding for a wildly successful program, in which we placed more than 90 gardens in 13 county elementary and middle schools to teach children the benefits of growing their own vegetables in a way that is economical, efficient, conserves water and energy, eliminates use of pesticides, and teaches good nutrition to students and their families.
  • 2013: Voted Best Audubon Florida Chapter of the Year.
  • 2013-14: Received $5,000 from Audubon’s Toyota TogetherGreen Grant Program for Quality of Life Indicators for Gifford and Fellsmere to work in cooperation with IRC Health Department, Gifford Progressive Civic League, and Fellsmere City Manager and City Council.
  • 2014: Published Reflections of Blue Cypress Second Edition.

The Audubon Community Center will be a key piece in our community to provide a special opportunity to demonstrate how people and nature can thrive together.  Our major goal is to provide to Indian River County residents the best education about our natural world so everyone can make intelligent choices in the future.  We plan to provide the following actions to meet this goal:

  • Expand Nature Volunteer Stewardship Classes that incorporate classroom and field experiences that focus and set the example, use, and continually explore with digital technology to educate about our lagoon and county conservation lands. 
  • Guided Nature Walks -- by the above trained and educated stewardship volunteers -- through the various habitats and other County Conservation Lands to see first hand the plants, insects, birds and habitats some of which they will be able to experience through sight and sound.
  • Canoeing, Kayak, and Boat Trips that explore the lagoon and its bird rookery, tributaries and impoundments.  For the public, Audubon has developed a unique hidden canoe trail inside the large mosquito control impoundment that is full of birds and critters, as well as mangrove habitat scenery.  (Audubon guides already have experience taking visitors on pontoon boat tours of one of the county’s special places, Blue Cypress Lake, in the western part of the county.)
  • Develop and Place Nature Video Cams that allow the public to watch in full screen the birds and animals visits at watering hole at night or observe both Bald Eagle or Great Horned Owl nests close by.
  • Nature Microphones for listening to our lagoon’s underwater life—the sounds of fish, manatee, dolphin and birds, insects, and frogs, broadcast from land and transmitted into our Audubon Community Center and also available on our website.
  • QR coded signs on the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area and Lagoon Greenway that peel back the layers of the scene around a visitor, with video of fascinating stories and interactions of the plants, animals and their ecology of that spot in the different habitats.  The trails, interpreted by the QR codes, will be a living place to learn how the wild world works. These relatively inexpensive signs, once produced, will serve as a model for all the county’s conservation areas.  These stories and information will also be posted on YouTube.  These will substitute for paper brochures at sites.
  • Plant Identification Signs, for the Audubon Community Center and the Oslo River Front Conservation Area, so visitors will be able to learn about the diversity of the varied habitats.
  • Expand our 1500 book library to include a Children’s Nature Nook Library with pillows where children can sit and read and hear stories about nature.
  • ACC Model Landscape (including pollinator-butterfly garden)  Indian River County and its municipalities have adopted fertilizer ordinances during the past two years because scientists have documented that nitrogen from misapplied fertilizers pollute the Indian River Lagoon.  Homeowners who care for their own landscapes need to learn about – and see – what they can do in their own landscapes to protect the Indian River Lagoon.  This model native landscape will demonstrate landscape practices that homeowners can adopt, including:
  • selection of native plants that thrive in Indian River County soils with minimal, if any, fertilization
  • ways to reduce fertilizer-intense grassed areas
  • use of mulches to reduce the need for fertilizer

Interpretive signs, plant identification signs, and QR code signs will explain the practices used in the landscape, and volunteers will be trained to explain these landscape elements.

  • ACC Native Plant Propagation “House” Native plants are well-suited to Florida conditions, and, when well-placed, in the landscape can reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water resources.   Local availability is limited.  Fast-growing weedy plants are cheaper to purchase and readily available, but, ultimately may cost the homeowner and the community.  Many homeowners who would like to reduce fertilizer-thirsty turfgrass areas have limited funds.  The ACC Native Plant Propagation “House” will show how native plants can be grown from seeds and cuttings.  These plants will be used to enhance the initial model landscape, replenish butterfly host plants that have been consumed, and, if possible, for native plant give-away to encourage participation in educational workshops.  The Native Plant Propagation “House” will be maintained by volunteers.  Initial training will be conducted by environmental horticulture staff based at the Indian River Research and Education Center, University of Florida, located in Fort Pierce, as well as by members of the Eugenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society who have extensive experience with growing local native plants.  The ACC Native Plant Propagation “House” will be built atop the existing concrete slab on the property.  Funding is requested for pvc piping with which volunteers will build long-lasting plant propagation tables, pots, high-quality potting soil, shade cloth, and an irrigation system.
  • Publishing a new bird book “Florida’s Friends with Feathers” by Juanita N. Baker, coordinator of the Bird Photo-of the Month the Birds of the Month photos of beautiful birds found in Florida by excellent photographers and essays that describe their interesting natural behavior. More photos will be included with additional information such as  basics of bird identification, characteristics, behavior, and where to find them in our county so that visitors and newcomers can appreciate and identify many of Florida’s birds.
  • Audubon Facebook and Twitter & Social Media presence will be used for bringing in the younger generation and “with it” adults.

PAST PRESIDENTS (1964 - present)

March 20, 1964 - Merritt C. Farrar, Temporary Chairman
April 14, 1964 - Merritt C. Farrar elected President
March 16, 1965 - Maggy Bowman elected President
March 2, 1966 - Mrs. Mabel Michael elected President
March 11, 1971 - Dr. Herbert W Kale, II, elected President
March 13, 1975 - Mike Ziegler elected President
May 6, 1976 - Maggy Bowman elected
Sept. 20, 1976 - Herb Kale elected President.
Oct. 8, 1976 - Barbara Burr elected President
March, 1977 - Maggy Bowman elected President
March 2, 1981 - Ray Fernald, elected President
March 18, 1985 - Stuart Miner elected President
October 6, 1986 - Judy Orcutt elected President
August 31, 1987 - Maggy Bowman elected President
March 19, 1991 - Donna Anderson elected President
March 15, 1993 - Jens Tripson elected President
March 17, 2003 - Richard H Baker elected President