Geographical Society of Philadelphia

Some of Our Speakers

Chief Astronomer of Franklin Institute, Dr. Derek Pitts

Kae Lani - culinary journalistKae Lani Palmisano is an Emmy Award-Winning television host, food and travel writer, recipe developer, and home cook who loves to explore the journey that food takes to get to the plate. As an “edutainer” her work focuses on having fun with food while educating audiences about where it comes from and its historical and cultural impact.As the host of WHYY’s Check, Please! Philly, Kae Lani showcases Philadelphia’s favorite restaurants through the eyes of locals, celebrating fine dining establishments alongside hidden neighborhood gems.  From Bucks County to Delaware and the Main Line to South Jersey, Check, Please! Philly is one of the region’s top food programs, earning Kae Lani the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for Talent: Program Host/Moderator, as well as two other Mid-Atlantic Emmy nominations in the show’s first year. Kae Lani has been featured in the BBC, Salon, on Fox29 Good Day Philadelphia, and has appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back on FOX.  As a food and travel writer, she has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Food & Wine, USA TODAY, KitchenAid Stories, Roads & Kingdoms, and more.

Derrick Pitts is the chief astronomer, planetarium director, and NASA Solar System Ambassador(!) for the Franklin Institute.  Derrick started his education at Germantown Academy before attending St. Lawrence University in NY. He has since been awarded honorary doctorates from La Salle University and Rowan University.  His masterful ability to communicate science to the public has led him to radio – as a weekly contributor to WHYY’s long-standing Skytalk – and television, where he has been a guest on several shows, including The Colbert Report. He has been honored by Mayor Kenney as a “Philadelphia Hero” due to his efforts to expose and educate children to science. Derrick Pitts is a true “Philly Hero” and #coolastronomer, and we are over-the-moon that he will speak with us!

The Story of Pier 53, aka Washington Avenue Green by the Delaware River

Arriving immigrants first disembarked at Lazaretto Station at Essington for health inspection, then continued up the Delaware River by ship for another eight miles to Pier 53 in South Philadelphia, the final entry point.

Our guest speaker and advisory board member Gabriela Cesarino presented the history of the area and talk about its future.

Susan McAninley who has made it her business to find and preserve stories from the descendants of immigrants who came through Pier 53, told us about the immigrant stories that she has been collecting through the years.

George L. Armistead is all about birds. George is a lifelong birder who enjoys photography, and writing about birds – and has authored 2 books on them! He is based in Philadelphia, holds a masters of environmental studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. He co-founded BirdPhilly to promote interest in Philadelphia’s birds. Since April 2012 he manages events for the American Birding Association.  George spent a decade leading international birding tours to all seven continents for Field Guides Inc., and is currently a Tour Leader for Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures.

Isabelle Betancourt is an entomologist, photographer, and science communicator! As a Curatorial Assistant of Entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Isa manages LepNet, a project to digitize over 50,000 North American moth and butterfly specimens in the Academy’s entomology research collection. Since 2013, she has been documenting insect biodiversity in Center City Philadelphia through collecting insects that get trapped in the iconic Swann Fountain. Isa enjoys entomological outreach and shares the world of entomology with a global audience through her weekly live-broadcasts (check out the #bugscope).

Isa has a double major in Entomology and Plant Science from Cornell University and is completing a Communication Masters at Drexel University. Connect with her via Instagram or Twitter: @isabetabug

Ryan Pyle is an adventurer and author, BBC Earth TV host and great speaker.  With a degree in International Politics, skills in photography and writing, and an adventurous spirit, Ryan has explored lesser-known parts of the world by motorcycle and brought his vision to audiences around the globe. He has taken his “Extreme Treks” and “Tough Rides” through India, China, and Brazil. We honored Ryan as our 2014/15 Explorer of the Year, and proudly welcome him back.