Each year when the ION staff puts together a program for the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon as part of the ION GNSS+ conference, they look to add a little local flavor to the event.
Last year in Portland, the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon featured a bicycle building competition and the finished products were donated to a local organization that helps underserved children get their hands on bicycles, which are quite popular in the Portland area. So with this year’s ION GNSS+ event held in Miami, what could be better than providing a little Florida wildlife flavor?
As the volunteers enjoyed a lunch at the Hyatt Regency Miami on Sept. 27, ION officials and Inside GNSS publisher Richard Fischer thanked those in attendance for all the hours of time and dedication behind the scenes put forth to ensure that the conference and its sessions run smoothly each year.
The special guest at the luncheon was Desiree Dou from My Reptile Guys, a Miami area company that brings the thrill of a safari to the comfort of homes, schools and events.
Dou educated the attendees on the Everglades National Park and on her role in working with the many threatened and endangered species and plants in the Everglades. It takes plenty of assistance from local, state and federal agencies to help with the Everglades and the Big Cypress National Preserve, which contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther.
While Dou did not show up at the luncheon with a panther, she did wow and entertain the crowd with a variety of animals. Among the special guests were a small crocodile, a large Burmese python snake, and a black and white Argentine tegu lizard named Elliott.
While there are some programs designed to eliminate pythons in the area or reduce the number of tegus that eat crocodile and bird eggs, the animal-loving Dou works to rescue such animals rather than kill them. She practices what she preaches, stating that she has more than 200 animals in her home.
A highlight for attendees came when everyone interested was allowed to hold the animals and have their pictures taken with the creatures. With next year’s ION GNSS+ slated to return to Miami, who knows what the ION staff will come up with for next year’s local flavor.