2019 Lighthouse Lecture Series

Point Arena Lighthouse is pleased to present the sixth season of the popular Lighthouse Lecture Series. Each presentation takes place in the Fog Signal Building Museum on the third Saturday of the month and features a local naturalist, historian, volunteer or expert presenting on topics of public interest relevant to the Lighthouse or our area. Lectures in September through May will begin at 4 p.m. lectures in June through August will begin at 5 p.m.  All lectures last approximately one hour. This year’s lineup is as follows:

Saturday, January 19, 4 p.m.  – CANCELLED due to illness

Saturday, February 16, 4 p.m. – Robin Joy Wellman on California Collection – The Project of the Sonoma- Mendocino Artifacts in St. Petersburg Kunstkamera – Presented

Saturday, March 16, 4 p.m. – Sara Bogard on Open Space Preserved: Harbor Seals and other Inhabitants of the Point Arena Lighthouse and the Point Arena/Stornetta Public Lands

Saturday, April 20, 4 p.m. – Katy Tahja on Emily Fish Introduces Lady Lighthouse Keepers

Saturday, May 18, 4 p.m. – Dr. Nancy R. Morin on Plants of the Mendonoma Coast–what have we learned, and what mysteries remain?

Saturday, June 15, 5 p.m. – Scott Mercer – Large Baleen Whales of the Local Coast

Saturday, July 27, 5 p.m. – Michael B. Combs on Point Arena in the 1950’s – Growing Up in a Beehive of Activity

Saturday, August 17, 5 p.m. – Eric Wilder – Topic TBD

Saturday, September 21, 4 p.m. – Nik Epanchin on Point Arena Light Station Renovation 2008-2010

Saturday, October 19, 4 p.m. – Judy Bryan Mello – Topic TBD

Saturday, November 16, 4 p.m. – Jeanne Jackson on Mushrooming

Saturday, December 21, 4 p.m. – Lisa Mortimeyer-Giacomini on Superfoods on our Coast – Hunting, Gathering, Cooking, Preserving

Admission to all lectures is $5 per person, with the proceeds benefiting the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers, Inc.  To make reservations or for more information on our lecture series and other special events, see our Calendar of Events or call the Lighthouse at 707-882-2809 extension 1.

Spotlight On Our Next Lecture

Photo by Jamie Hall

On Saturday, March 16 at 4 p.m. Sara Bogard will present  “Open Space Preserved: Harbor Seals and other Inhabitants of the Point Arena Lighthouse and the Point Arena/Stornetta Public Lands”  as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

This presentation gives a glimpse into the rich diversity of life that can be seen at the Point Arena Lighthouse and adjacent Point Arena/Stornetta Public Lands. The presentation will take a closer look at the animals who reside and migrate through this shoreline and bluff top habitat. From her weekly surveys and monitoring, she will present data she has gathered on the resident Harbor Seals, birds and other species over the past year. During the course of the year she has counted as many as 177 Harbor Seals hauled out during a survey. From this data and information, patterns and cycles of birth, nesting and migration emerge to make these bluff tops a spectacular place to view and connect with the natural world. 

Sara conducts weekly ongoing pinniped surveys in the local area. Her goal is to contribute to the preservation and sustained health of ocean habitat for all species. Extending her knowledge and impact, Sara is also a volunteer for several ocean conservation organizations.

She is a Beach Watch Volunteer, which is part of the Greater National Farallones Marine Sanctuary. The Greater National Farallones Sanctuary is a globally significant, extraordinarily diverse, and productive marine ecosystem that supports abundant wildlife and valuable fisheries, providing breeding ground for at least twenty-five endangered or threatened species.   Sara volunteers for The Marine Mammal Center which advances global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, research and education.  She also volunteers for Naked Whale Research which is focused on the survival of Resident Killer Whale Pods that reside and migrate along the coast of Washington and into Oregon and California.  She recently joined the Volunteer Team for the National Harbor Seal Inventory and Monitoring Program in California.

Data gathered from these organizations will be culminated with the work of many other volunteers to support ocean conservation. Sara feels it is invaluable to share her data and observations with other conservation organizations, the scientific community at large, educational institutions and the general public.

Future Lectures


On Saturday, May 18 at 4 p.m. Dr. Nancy R. Morin  will present  “Plants of the Mendonoma coast–what have we learned, and what mysteries remain?”  as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

The Mendonoma coast is home to a surprising number of rare plants and plant communities and yet little has been know about the flora of the region.  In order to help develop a management plan for the newly added Point Arena-Stornetta Unit to the California Coastal National Monument, teams of botanists from the California Native Plant Society and the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley were contracted to undertake vegetation and plant surveys.  This talk will explore the results of their work–what plant communities are seen on this part of the coast, what plants occur here, what else is known about our coastal rare plants and plant communities, and what work still needs to be done

Dr. Nancy R. Morin

Dr. Morin is a botanist who studies the relationships of plants.  She received her PhD in botany at University of California, Berkeley and has worked at Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, and The Arboretum at Flagstafff.  Passionate about plants and their importance in our environment, she has worked since 1983 on a massive project to produce a flora of the plants of North America north of Mexico.

On Saturday, June 15 at 4 p.m. Scott Mercer  will present  “Large Baleen Whales of the Local Coast”  as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

A close look at the common Large Baleen Whales of the Local Coast: humpback, finback, and blue whale, with a special emphasis on the ecology of the gray whale and the 2019 census.  For each species we will look at their overall dimensions, populations geographic range, food preferences, and feeding strategies. We will give extra emphasis to the ecology of the gray whale and report the results of our sixth annual gray whale census and mother/ calf pairs.

Scott began studying marine mammals in 1974 with a lengthy feeding study of the sea otter in Monterey Bay. In 1978, he founded New England Whale Watch Inc, operating the business until 1990, affording him as many as 165 days at sea each year. During the off-season, Scott co-founded a research station in Nova Scotia, Canada, studied humpback whales in Newfoundland, Canada, served on a research vessel from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and led ecotourism expeditions in the Caribbean. Scott taught a marine mammal class for 14 years at the University of New Hampshire, as well as marine related classes and shipboard courses.  He has published three books, including The Great Whale Book and Whalehead Nation.

On Saturday, July 27 at 4 p.m. Michael B. Combs will present “Point Arena in the 1950’s – Growing Up in a Beehive of Activity” as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Michael was seven when his family moved from Southern California to Point Arena in 1949. Sleepy Point Arena soon became very busy as the Air Force arrived in 1950, the saw mills grew and flourished, and ranching, farming, and fishing prospered too. He took it all in, as the Baby Boomer flood swamped the four-room elementary school and families lived in abandoned buildings and crammed into tiny apartments. It was a wonderful and exciting time to be alive and young.

Michael’s family moved to Point Arena in 1949 when he was in the 2nd Grade. They lived for a while in the old abandoned high school building across from the Catholic Church, and later built their own home behind the Elementary School. His younger brother Ron and he helped build their home, using a borrowed plow horse and Fresno scraper to dig a full sized basement. After graduation from Point Arena High in 1960, Michael went to Humboldt State a year, Santa Rosa Junior College a year, then the Air Force for 21.5 years – married his high school sweetheart Marilynn (they had three sons) – and attended five other colleges while in the Air Force. He started as a Russian linguist, then became a Budget and Finance Officer and Internal Auditor. After 14 moves, an MBA and CPA, he retired from the Air Force and worked at Lockheed, Sunnyvale, for ten years, then on to some other jobs including Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, and Nummi, Fremont. Marilynn died of breast cancer in 1988 just after their 25th anniversary, and he chose his current wife Alice from a book and they married in 1989. He retired in 1998 and he and Alice moved to Gualala, which they love over all places, while traveling quite a bit and loving coming home. Every day they play ball with their doggie Radar on Cook’s Beach and remind themselves not to take their wonderful lives here on the coast for granted.

On Saturday, December 21 at 4 p.m.  Lisa Giacomini  will present  “Superfoods on our Coast – Hunting, Gathering, Cooking, Preserving”  as part of the Lighthouse Lecture Series.

Superfoods are foods that are nutritionally dense in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and flavor. These “free”, natural and organic foods exist everywhere in our coastal environment. This series will talk about where to hunt for them, how to gather or catch it, cook it, store it and preserve them.  We will cover ocean to mountains between the shoreline and the ridgelines near Point Arena. This presentation is a list of tips and tricks to make your outdoor life fun and healthier here on the South Coast.  Lisa is a firm believer that food is medicine and will also touch on how nutrition from these Superfoods wards off everything from heart disease to cancer. This series is not intended to impart too much science, but more about how to find, prepare and enjoy many different types of wild foods found here.

Lisa is the owner of Giacomini Specialty Products, known locally as Baby Tomato which is also a trademark and brand. Baby Tomato also does private events, personal chef, medicinal foods for clients, event planning, and fundraising for non-profits and all things “food”. All Baby Tomato foods are made with the freshest, most local and seasonal foods of the coast whenever possible. Lisa is a 30 year experienced free diver, hunter and avid outdoors person and helps others to develop the skills they need to thrive here.