The Class of '97

By Dawn Pinder

The Aucilla River Prehistory Project draws an amazingly diverse group of volunteers each year. The project draws energy from those who lend their expertise, personalities and enthusiasm to the project. The “Class of ’97" is no exception. Here is a brief look at this multi-talented group of individuals.

BOB ACKER, of Salem, South Carolina worked on quality control and research at U.S. Gypsum for 40 years. Bob has participated in four projects with the Center for American Archaeology in Kampville, Illinois and five Earth Watch Expeditions from Maine to Chile. He finds the Aucilla Project “fascinating.”

TIM BARBER, a divemaster and underwater photographer in Tampa, joined the project to learn more about paleontology, but says he has found “the greatest benefit to be the wonderful friendships formed while working together toward some very important goals.” Tim also worked on the 1997 Santa Fe River Survey.


JAN BLUE, of Tallahassee is an attorney with the Florida Legislature. She spends vacations backpacking in the West and in Alaska and enjoys kayaking the rivers of North Florida. Jan says she is “very impressed by the dedication and level of experience of the staff and volunteers.”

RHONDA BREWER, 31, of Jacksonville is a graduate student of anthropology at Florida State University and works at the Southeast Archaeological Center in Tallahassee. During 1997 Rhonda also assisted on the Allendale Paleoindian Project in Allendale, South Carolina.

LANCE CARLSON, 22 of Gainesville is a graduate student at the University of Florida. He has been involved with other projects including the Cornell University underwater archaeology field school in Portsmouth, Maine.

BOB COUGHTER, 23, of Tequesta graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Florida. He has also been involved in a project in Panama and a survey in southwest Florida. Bob states “the project (ARPP) continues to prove its importance as a source for gaining insight into the life ways of the earliest Floridians.”

MELANIE DAMOUR, 21 of Tallahassee, Florida is currently an undergraduate student in underwater archaeology at Florida State University. She also worked on other projects including the O’Connell Mission site in Tallahassee and the Jefferson II site in New Hampshire. The Aucilla River Project was “a fun and educational experience,” for Melanie.

JOHN DAVIDSON, 33, of Melbourne, has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida. He has worked on the project for the last two years.



JOHN EVELAND, 62, of Monticello is a retired operating Engineer. He has been looking for fossils and artifacts for 25 years. John hopes to someday see a museum in Monticello to exhibit a representative collection of fossils and artifacts from the Aucilla River Project.


WILLIAM GIFFORD, 48, of DeLeon Springs is a dive instructor. He has participated on over 25 natural science projects, most recently on the 1997 Santa Fe River Survey.

STEVE GLOVER, 49, has a B.A. degree in English. He is retired from an advertising and graphic arts career. After spending time on the project Steve comments “I now have a notion of the magnitude of the work we have to do.”

JERRY GRAMIG, JR., 35, of Gainesville, FL, holds a B.S. from the University of Florida and works as a senior portfolio analyst. The avocation of archaeology is shared by his wife, son and father, who have volunteered on various projects around Florida. “ To be among such a diverse group of fun people, collectively caught up in the sheer excitement and sense of wonder about what mysteries unfold here daily, makes life rich for us.”

EDWARD GREEN, of Spring Hill, FL is retired from Ford Motor Company. He’s a 37 year member of the Michigan Archaeological Society. Ed has trained dozens of screen crew volunteers on the Aucilla Project.

ANDY HEMMINGS, holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in Tucson and is currently working on his Master’s featuring the archaeology and paleontology of Sloth Hole. He has worked at Paleoindian sites in AZ, NH, NM, SC, and, of course, Florida.

JOAN HERRERA, from Gainesville, has an M.Ed. in Science Education from the University of Florida. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Zoology at UF. She has been a divemaster with the ARPP for 7 years, and has worked on several underwater zoological and archaeological research projects.


MARY HUDSON, 39, is a Radiation Therapist in Gainesville. She is currently enrolled at Santa Fe Community College as an Anthropology major and plans to continue studies at University of Florida. Mary says an opportunity to be a part of this project is “a privilege and a blessing.”

TOM KELLEY, 47, of Miami, currently lives in Tallahassee where he is a residential contractor. When not pursuing his interest in archaeology, Tom loves to fish.

BIRGITTA KIMURA, 46, is currently working toward a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Florida. She has also done field work in Ethiopia, Panama and Sweden. She is currently analyzing DNA from stone scrapers collected in Ethiopia. She said her time at the Aucilla was “very interesting and fun.”

One of the many field crews from 1997. Standing from
left: Melanie Damour, Mark Muniz, Bill Gifford, Andy
Hemmings, John Davidson, Matt Mihlbachler. Kneeling:
Thadra Palmer, Joe Latvis, Birgitta Kimura, Jerry
Smith, Tim Barber, Bob Coughter, and Lance Carlson.
HANK KRATT, 35, of Tallahassee is a first year graduate student majoring in anthropology at Florida State University. Hank believes “the project will continue to add to our knowledge of Florida’s past.” He has also participated in FSU’s Field School excavation of the O’Connell Mission Site.

BILLY MAY, 71, works as a dentist in Richmond, VA. He has been involved with many projects all over the world including the Dry Tortugas, Bermuda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Belize, Turks and Caicos, of this project he says it’s the “greatest experience of my life.”

ALYSSA MCMANUS, 27, has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in anthropology from Florida State University. “The research is important and should continue for many seasons to come. Project participants have become some of my closest friends.”

CHUCK MEIDE, 26, is a graduate student at Florida State University studying underwater archaeology. He also teaches underwater field research classes at FSU. Chuck has participated in a number of underwater research projects from Florida to the Dry Tortugas.

MATTHEW MIHLBACHLER, 25, of Sigel, IL has a B.A. degree in Anthropology and is currently working toward a Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Florida. He has been involved with various projects in Florida, Illinois and Maboko Island in Kenya. Matt says “it’s the ‘accidental’ discoveries that we make along the way that are the most fun.”


MARK MUNIZ, 25, of Gainesville, is seeking a Master’s Degree in Archaeology from the University of Florida. Mark has participated in numerous archaeological projects in Florida, South Carolina, and New Mexico. He has also made several public presentations on behalf of the ARPP.

DON MUNROE, 47, holds a degree in Nuclear Engineering and works at the University of Florida as a radiation safety officer. This is Don’s third year working on the project.

MICHAEL NOLAN, 35, of Pierson, FL is a broker and grower of decorative foliage. He has also volunteered with the DeLeon Springs Survey.

JEREMY OGLE, 24, is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida working towards a B.A. in Anthropology. He says “this project is the most exciting project I have been involved with.” Jeremy also spent time this summer in the Yucatan studying Maya sites.

HOLT OLIVER, of Eatonton, Georgia works as a paramedic with a special interest and specialty in rescue diving. This season was his first experience as a volunteer and he says he "has a whole new hobby now."

THADRA PALMER, 22, is a fulltime student at Florida State University working towards a B.A. in Anthropology. She has been involved in a variety of other projects while at FSU including Little Salt Springs and Marathon wrecks.

TANYA M. PERES, 25, from Flagler Beach, holds a B.A. and an M. A. in Anthropology from Florida State University. She is currently working on her Ph. D. in Anthropology at the University of Florida. She analyzed faunal material from the Page/Ladson site for her thesis. She has been with the ARPP since 1996, and has worked on a number of archaeological projects in Florida and the Southeastern United States.

ROBERTO QUINONEZ, 16, from Gainesville, is a student at Gainesville High School. He is a member of Key Club. Roberto was new to the ARPP this year, working the screen deck during the 1997 fall season. He plans to dive with us this spring. He has been diving since 1992.

EUGENE ROWE, 68, a retired veterinarian from Richmond, VA has been on close to 50 scientific projects worldwide, most with Earthwatch of Watertown, MA. The ARPP is one of his favorites because of the “good science and methods.” Gene thinks “we are near some important revelations.”

MICHAEL SIMPSON is a Metro Dade Fire Department Haz-Mat Paramedic. He is also working on a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Administration. This was Michael’s first season with the project.


JO ANN SUGGS, of Brandon, FL, is a fulltime housewife who raises turkeys and is “big on flowers.” She and her husband Melvin have a second home on the Aucilla where they plan to retire. Jo Ann showed quick reflexes during the summer when she dodged a snake that came up through the dredge and onto the screen.

MELVIN SUGGS, of Brandon, FL, works as a technician (mechanic) with Reynolds Metal Company. He loves to fish and turkey hunt, and raises turkeys to gain insight into their behavior in the wild. Melvin and his wife Jo Ann plan to retire to the Aucilla River. Melvin says while at the ARPP, he “didn’t meet anybody he didn’t like.”

DAVID THULMAN, 42, is an environmental attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee. He has always been interested in paleontology and prehistoric archaeology, and this project is a perfect mix of both. “The people are terrific and the science is great, and except for the bugs, the setting is beautiful.” He hopes to participate for years to come.

BINION WILLIAMS, 55, of Jacksonville is a Production Controller at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration. Bin likes to spend his free time outdoors hunting, boating, fishing and camping. The ARPP gives him one more excuse to pitch his tent.

BRIAN WOODS, 30, of Northern Ireland now lives in Minneapolis, MN, where he works in the banking industry. He holds a B.A. in history from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. from the University of St.Thomas in Minneapolis.

JIM WYNN, JR., see “A new volunteer’s ARPP experience”.