Student Profile: Court Whelan

Academic Advisor: Drs. Thomas Emmel and Jaret Daniels

Court Whelan is a doctoral student in the Ecotourism Entomology graduate program. A passion for biodiversity conservation, sustainable ecotourism, and the natural world led Court to initiate this new program with the help of his advisors and a number of faculty and staff from the Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Having completed his M. S. degree at UF in August 2008, he currently pursues his Ph.D. and is taking a holistic approach to the study of entomological ecotourism. By investigating the origins of tourism, ecotourism, and entomological ecotourism, his dissertation will synergize years of experimentation on methods for integrating insects into modern day nature tourism.

Court Whelan Court Whelan with the group of locals dressed for a singsing ceremony on the trip to Papua New Guinea.

Court is also involved in several side projects with ecological and conservation implications. He is involved in a study on butterfly roadway mortality in Florida in an effort to make comparisons between seasons and form inferences about roadway effects on migratory species that often cross these roadways during their migration. These data will also be used to estimate the implications of expanding roadways on butterflies as urban populations spread into natural areas.

On a more applied side of ecotourism, Court is the General Manager of Expedition Travel, an ecotourism company that leads tours in cooperation with the Florida Museum of Natural History and the McGuire Center. With an ever-increasing interest in ecotourism to places like Costa Rica (for bird and butterfly watching) and Mexico (to witness the overwintering Monarch butterflies), eco-minded travelers are joining tours with the Florida Museum and Expedition Travel in record numbers, with an average of 10 different ecotourism expeditions being planned and led each year.

Court is an avid photographer, who also takes video to document his travels. Armed with dozens of hours of rare, high definition footage and thousands of still photos, taken in localities such as Papua New Guinea, the Galapagos Islands and Madagascar, Court is assembling movies and slide shows for display in the Florida Museum of Natural History and McGuire Center as a means to portray the world's magnificent biodiversity and to highlight areas of conservation priority to the public.