Nature Center/Naturalist Team

Nature Center
The Nature Center is the focal point of all nature-related activities on Spring Island.  This facility acts as a library, a museum, a zoo and a classroom.  The Nature Center provides a hands-on experience where visitors learn about the island’s animals, plants, archeology and geology.  Our Staff naturalists do conduct individual instruction with visiting families using the Center’s animal collection and a variety of educational exhibits.

The displays at the Nature Center include a variety of live animals, such as reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The center also features touch tables, an interactive island field guide and excellent taxidermy specimens allowing residents and visitors to learn more about the habitats they encounter while on Spring Island.  The Nature Center hosts numerous educational programs ranging from bird seminars to nocturnal forays into the nature preserves to observe owls and other night creatures.  Advanced courses like the 12 week Master Naturalist Program are also offered for the serous nature enthusiast.

For more information, please contact: Lisa Gravil at 843-987-7008 or, or visit

Naturalist Team
In 1998, Dr. Chris Marsh became Executive Director of the Spring Island Trust. Over the years, Chris has drawn on his unique background – college professor, wildlife researcher, education reformer – to create an environment where nature lovers and lifelong learners thrive. He has also managed to assemble a top-notch team of professional naturalists.

Karl Ohlandt, Landscape Ecologist, helps residents promote high-quality habitat on their homesites through the management and use of native plant materials. Prior to joining the Spring Island Trust in early 2007, Karl gained valuable experience working with a community association while employed by an environmentally-sensitive, barrier island community for 13 years. He has undergraduate degrees in Biology and Horticulture, and a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture. Karl represents the environmental interests of the Spring Island Trust while serving on the Habitat Review Board and Stewardship Committee. Karl also provides leadership for the volunteer-run Native Plant Project, which rescues and propagates native plants for use in landscaping. As part of this project, Karl educates the community on the importance of native plants to the health of the island habitat.

Tony Mills, Education Director, ran the University of Georgia’s environmental program at Savannah River Ecology Lab for 20 years before joining the Spring Island team in 2007. Tony’s current duties include co-teaching the Master Naturalist program, producing educational programs for local schools and leading field trips and teacher workshops. He writes a newspaper column on plants and animals of the Lowcountry and co-wrote the book “Lizards and Crocodilians of the Southeast” (UGA press June 2009). He also hosts and co-produces “Coastal Kingdom” a local television series about animals and plants of the lowcountry. Although Tony spends a major portion of his time teaching and writing, he continues his fieldwork with animals and plants of the southeast. Past research trips have taken him on excursions into the jungles of Mexico and Costa Rica to conduct studies on snakes and lizards and into the Everglades of South Florida to collect introduced pythons and endangered crocodiles.

Kristen Marshall Mattson, Environmental Educator, taught college biology for two years prior to working on Spring Island. Kristen received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Spanish from Stetson University in 2005 and went on to study at the University of Florida where she received a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology in 2006. Kristen joined the LowCountry Institute in August 2008 and has quickly become an integral part of the Spring Island team. She conducts educational programs for students, teachers, and Beaufort County residents, co-teaches the Master Naturalist program, and cares for the many critters in LCI’s live animal collection.

Pristine and Private