Working at Rookery Bay Research Reserve has been quite an experience! In addition to the everyday adventures of turtle patrol, I’ve been able to join in other types of field research and activities recently…
One of the programs I was able to assist with was the reserve’s ongoing fisheries monitoring project. Reserve biologist Pat O’Donnell oversees the fisheries study that involves shark research and I was able to assist him on a couple trips. The study targets three bays: Pumpkin, Fakahatchee & Faka Union, and we used a gill net and longlines to bring live sharks on board for tagging and data collection. As you would imagine, this can be delicate work both for the safety of the volunteers and for the sharks themselves, but under Pat’s guidance, everyone works together well and it was a fantastic experience
Sometimes, other animals get caught in the net, as was the case with this young Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Even on the shark boat I can’t stay away from sea turtles!
Earlier in the summer, I also had the opportunity to go out and help with some avian studies. In addition to the sunset population counts that Anthony Himmelberger reported on previously, more “hands on” work is sometimes necessary. Audubon partners with Rookery Bay Reserve to host the Shorebird Stewardship Program, and the program coordinator, Adam DiNuovo, needed help with his Black Skimmer banding project. I was happy to join in to help out, and let me tell you, I’ve never had so much fun catching birds on a beach at night with a headlamp and a net. The little skimmers ranged in size from helpless tiny hatchlings to juveniles still awkwardly unsure on the wing, and it was fascinating to learn more about these birds and how they are studied. Thanks to Adam for letting me tag along!
In this photo, you can barely see the little one and the egg from afar! It really drives home how important it is to protect bird nesting areas. They are so well camouflaged it’d be easy to accidentally step on one.
That’s it for now!
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.