Essentials of Digital Photography

If you want to get the best pictures possible, and truly understanding your camera’s features, the Essentials of Digital Photography: How to get the most from your digital camera workshop is for you.
This in-door only class covers the essentials of your digital camera. You will learn how to use your camera’s shutter, aperture, ISO control and the drive modes to create images with impact and creativity. Sonny Saunders has over 35 years of experience in photography and instruction and is renowned for his ability to communicate to a wide variety of students.

**No previous camera or photography experience is necessary, just a desire to learn.**



Watercolors & Wildlife: Painting with Jan

Paint the beauty of coastal Naples and the wildlife of estuary waters with this watercolors class led by local Naples artist, Jan Deswik. Held in classrooms at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, participants will complete a painted piece with matte at each session.


  • Perfect for beginners
  • Spotlights on nature from shells to bird life to local waterways
  • All materials are included
  • Complete a painting at each class!

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Artist Statement

Working primarily from mental images, memories and impressions I aim for an ethereal, dreamlike quality to convey an emotional experience rather than a mere snapshot of the subject. While my subjects are based loosely on scenes and experiences from the natural world, this abstract, interpretive style sharply diverges from the photo realistic portrayals more typical of watercolor artists.

Currently a resident of Naples, Florida, I take advantage of having lived and traveled in the Far East and draw upon the influences of Asian styles and techniques such as the vibrant colors of Japanese woodblock prints, the perspectives of Chinese landscape painting and the simple yet elegant images of sumie ink painting.

I want to draw you, the viewer, into the images prompting individual interpretation and a personalization of the viewing experience. Sometimes this is with unexpected use of color, shape and perspective, and sometimes it is the changes in the subject from everyday to memory inspired. What is important to me is what the viewer sees in a painting, what I could think about it is not remotely as interesting to me as what you tell me you see.

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About the Class

In the classes at Rookery Bay, we will be able to use the amazing charm of the plants, birds, aquatic life and vistas to capture some of the delight and loveliness. In our 2.5 hours for each class, we’ll get a brief insight into one of the residents and use that to create a picture.

These will definitely not be a photo realistic portrait, but rather a study or exercise to capture the energy and essence of our subject. We will also cover some of the technical parts of watercolor, as needed.



Lunch & Learn Lecture Series

The Lunch & Learn Lecture Series hosted at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center invites guests to enjoy a hot buffet from Carrabba’s Italian Grill, while learning something new about mangroves on the big screen in the comfort of the auditorium.

Each month, experts will focus on a unique, research topic related to Mangroves, Mud, and Management: Stories of Resilience and Restoration in South Florida.

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Monthly Topics

  • December 14, 2023 – Hurricane Impacts on Mangroves by Dr. Kara Radabaugh, Research Scientist (Fish & Wildlife Research Institute)
  • January 24, 2024 – Small But Mighty: Urban Mangroves Provide Important Functions to South Florida by Bella Reyes, Ph.D. Candidate (Tropical Research and Education Center at the University of Florida)
  • February 14, 2024 – How Can Collaborative Science Address Mangrove Resilience by Dr. Danielle Ogurcak, Interdisciplinary Science Manager (Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve)
  • March 6, 2024 – Sea-level Rise and Mangroves: Why is this Important? by Andrew From, Ecologist (U.S. Geological Survey’s Wetland and Aquatic Research Center)
  • April 10, 2024 – Don’t Stop Believing: A Restoration Journey from Muck to Mangroves by Marissa Figueroa, M.S. Student (Florida International University)

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What: Lunch & Learn Lecture Series: Florida Talks at the Reserve

When: Monthly starting in December from 12pm – 1pm

Where: Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, 300 Tower Road
Please arrive 15 minutes early to get your plate, grab a seat, and enjoy the live-stream lecture 12-1 pm.

How: Cost is $20, includes lunch. Advance registration is required.



Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing is a slow, quiet, guided sensory experience with nature that has proven physical and mental health benefits. Think of it as “wellness in the woods.”

Our forest bathing takes place on the Snail Trail, a scrub and mangrove forest along Henderson Creek at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. From seating on a dock overlooking the water, a Certified Forest Bathing Guide will conduct a guided meditation session and offer a series of invitations to use your curiosity and senses to connect with nature and yourself. Look, listen, smell and feel what the forest is offering you.

Optional opportunities for sharing throughout the program create a communal sense of a shared experience. Light refreshments during a closing ceremony help you feel refreshed as you continue your day.

Decades of research have shown that forest bathing can reduce stress and depression and improve immune function as well as cardiovascular and respiratory health, among other benefits.

The fee includes same-day admission to the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Please note that forest bathing is not a hike or an educational program. It is a chance to unwind and de-stress with nothing you need to learn or do.

October 5, 2024
November 2, 2024
December 7, 2024
January 4, 2025
February 1, 2025
March 1, 2025
April 5, 2025

What to bring/wear:
Closed-toe shoes
Bug spray
Water or other hydrating beverage
Camping-style chair, if you need or want to sit

What not to bring:
Phone, camera or other electronic devices; it’s time to relax.



Virtual Binoculars

Southwest Florida is a critical stopover site for thousands of migrating and wintering shorebirds. In this program, Megan Hatten of Audobon Florida and Collette Lauzau of Rookery Bay Research Reserve will discuss the life history of these birds and the incredible journeys many of them make annually.
From the comfort of your computer, we will taken you on a virtual tour of the amazing mudflats of Tigertail Beach. You will see what birds are out there in real time through a virtual spotting scope while viewing photos and receiving clues to look for to help you identify these birds in the field.

Each month the birds species and their appearance will change so we encourage you to join us for the entire series. No two sessions will be the same!



Birding with Biologists

Enjoy this fun and informative class designed to help you identify birds around you. Oriented toward the beginning birder, this workshop explores how to use birds’ plumage, shape, behavior and habitat to recognize various species.

Practice using your binoculars binoculars and field guides as you tour the paved paths of Donna Fiala Eagle Lakes Community Park, led by local expert biologists Megan Hatten of Audubon Florida and Collette Lauzau of Rookery Bay Research Reserve.


Aug 13 - Sept 10, 2024

Florida Master Naturalist Program

August 13 - September 10, 2024
Are you interested in increasing your knowledge of Florida’s unique coastal habitat and wildlife? Rookery Bay Research Reserve partners with the University of Florida to offer a section of the Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems. You’ll learn about marine environments, birds, fish, mammals and more!



Members' Celebration

February 13, 2024
We’re Celebrating YOU! Thank you for supporting Friends of Rookery Bay

Friends of Rookery Bay invites YOU, our members to our annual Members’ Night event on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm which will feature Broadway show tunes performed by Martina Long, headliner for Carnival Cruise Line. Enjoy wine, beer, soft drinks and light refreshments. FREE for Friends of Rookery Bay members.

We look forward to celebrating YOU!


All Year
Engage and Learn

Learning with the Experts

Engage, learn, and immerse yourself with the experts in multiple topics by attending a lecture or class at Rookery Bay Research Reserve. We offer lectures about birds, classes on photography, professional training, and more! What are you waiting for? Book your next class today!

Stay Connected with Us!


Keep up-to-date on the latest news, events, research, and fun happenings at Rookery Bay!