My New Hometown

Why I Moved to Sarasota: Zoologist Diane Ledder

Zoologist Diane Ledder explores Sarasota's natural wonders.

By Ilene Denton January 1, 2016 Published in the January 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Photo by Jennifer Soos


Zoologist Diane Ledder’s career took her to Zoo Miami as an educator, to the San Diego Zoo as zookeeper trainer, and to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where, as a curator, she worked with the bird, mammal and invertebrate collections—including “cockroaches and huge hairy tarantulas,” she says. Ledder then spent 11 years with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando. She and her partner and fellow zoologist, Rick Barongi, moved to Houston when he was appointed director of the Houston Zoo. He’s still based in Houston for now, but often joins Ledder to explore the region’s natural wonders.


I ♥ Florida


“I came to Florida from Texas to get a master’s degree in biological oceanography from the University of Miami; I studied manatees and their food habits. My career took me many places, but I knew I wanted to get back to Florida. As Davy Crockett once said [about Texas], ‘I wasn’t born here but I got here as soon as I could.’”


Rescuing Rhinos


“The one board position I have retained is with the International Rhino Foundation. We’re focused on the survival of the world’s five species of rhinos. Like elephants, poaching rates among rhinos have skyrocketed in the last few years. [In Sarasota] I’d like to connect with Mote.”


Water World


“Being on the water is so peaceful and beautiful; I watch pelicans, fish feeding at night, the dolphins. I’ve got a lot to learn about what’s under the water here. [We] bought kayaks and the first time we went out around sunset, a manatee swam right up to the kayak. It was magical.”


Good Neighbors


“I was looking for someplace that felt like a community, where I could walk the dogs every day, go for a run, talk to my neighbors. I looked everywhere for three years before finding an empty bayfront lot near Southside Village. Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects and Denny Yoder of Yoder Homes designed and built my new home. I feel more at home here in three months than anyplace else I’ve lived.”


Having It All


“The environment and the water drew me here. The climate’s right, the location’s great, we have a lovely airport and my two best friends happen to live here. What more could you want?”


To read past My New Hometown interviews, click here. >>

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