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The Research Department at Rookery Bay Reserve monitors water, weather, and wildlife to detect short-term events and long-term change. Like watchdogs for wildlife and wild places, researchers can detect differences before they become problems for the environment, community, or local businesses.

They also conduct scientific research projects, develop maps for scientific, management, and educational projects, and encourage visiting scientists to take advantage of the 110,000 acres of protected water and land to increase our understanding of Rookery Bay Reserve.

Research Projects

Many research projects are conducted in the Reserve to answer scientific questions about the wildlife, plants, and habitats within our boundaries. The projects are conducted by Reserve staff, Graduate Research Fellows, and Visiting Scientists. The results of these projects contribute to our overall understanding of the Reserve and to the Natural Resources Management efforts.

Visiting Scientists

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students and scientists from around the world. The Visiting Scientist program encourages graduate students and other researchers to conduct their studies in the reserve -- reserve staff can draw on the expertise of these individuals when making management decisions. Current Visiting Scientist research includes studies of Burmese pythons, invasive plants, native box turtles, and nearly 100 others.

Check out our interactive map showing all current and past research projects.

To conduct research within Reserve boundaries, you must register using our Visiting Scientist Form (see link below).



Rookery Bay Reserve has various facilities available for use by Visiting Scientists. The Research wing at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center (on Tower Road) houses a dry and a wet lab with standard lab supplies and equipment. The Shell Island Road Field Station has a newly renovated lab conveniently located next to Henderson Creek and available for necropsies and processing of field samples. A new facility is currently underway at our Ten Thousand Islands Field Station in Goodland.


dormsDormitory rooms are available at the Shell Island Road Field Station (on lower Henderson Creek) in south Naples and the Ten Thousand Islands Field Station in Goodland.These facilities are operated for the purpose of providing logistic support and overnight accommodatiions for reserve visitors conducting research, education, resource management or other projects consistent with the mission of the reserve and Florida DEP.

The Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc., a non-profit citizen support organization for the reserve, facilitates the operation of the two field stations by accepting tax-deductible fee donations to defray the costs associated with the maintenance and operation of the facilities.

All visitors are required to read and abide by the Dormitory Use Policy. In order to stay in either of our facilities it is necessary to request a reservation by completing our Dormitory Reservation Form.


 Visiting Scientist Registration

In order to better and safely accommodate the existing, and growing, population of visiting investigators, the Reserve has developed this mandatory registration form. Failure to provide accurate information or notify the front desk of excursions to remote areas will result in loss of Reserve visiting scientist privileges. 


GIS Mapping


Reserve staff use GIS (Geographic Information System) technology to map the locations of natural resources, plan for public access (camp sites, trails, protected areas), and educate the community about coastal processes and change events. 

1940 2016 storymap rookery bay 2018

Post-Irma Storymap

Changing Shorelines

Story-mapping is a cool new way of using technology to see geographical changes over time. Follow the links below to see story maps depicting shoreline changes in the reserve. The images tell a powerful story.

Seventy Years of Island Dynamics

Access the 1940-2018 map here.

Access the Post-Irma map here (map credit: SERT).


Interactive Map

Research Projects and Public Access Sites

The research department has developed an interactive, web-based map application that shows the large number of science projects taking place within its boundaries. Dots on the map reference more than 570 study sites for research and monitoring programs that have been, or are currently being conducted by visiting scientists and reserve staff. Search criteria on the app include project type (staff or visiting scientist), research and monitoring categories ranging from bats to weather, as well as the project status. When a point is clicked a pop-up window explains the goals of the project, names the principal investigator and their affiliation, and shows photos if available. Dots also represent the public access sites including boat launches, walking trails and paddle trail.


Access the map here.


Habitat Story Map

Habitat Map

The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is 110,000 acres. Mapping all of the upland and benthic habitats presents many challenges due to the remoteness of these areas and the turbid water conditions. The habitat map is not perfect and is a work in progress! The interactive map allows users to view and search the various habitats in the Rookery Bay Reserve area. Users can also print and share maps of their areas of interest.



Access the map here.


Shape Files

Below please find links to some of our shape files available for you to download:

thumbnail RBNERR Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve boundary
 Download Shapefile 

thumbnail - RBAP Rookery Bay Aquatic Preserve boundary
 Download Shapefile

thumbnail CR TT AP Cape Romano – Ten Thousand Islands Aquatic Preserve boundary
 Download Shapefile


Additional Spatial Data and Tools

Helpful links for additional shapefile downloads can be found here:


Reserve staff monitor water, weather and wildlife in effort to inform management decisions by reserve managers and partners.

Learn about all of the different monitoring programs within the Reserve

Restoring the Rookery Bay Estuary

Restoring the Rookery Bay Estuary

The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR) managed a grant-funded project called Restoring the Rookery Bay Estuary: Connecting People and Science for Long-term Community Benefit from March 2011 through June 2015. The project was funded by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s (NERRS) Science Collaborative which is a cooperative agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of New Hampshire.

Access the project details here.

Sea Turtle Incubation Temperature Study

sea turtle nest temps 250

Temperature data loggers made by Onset (the loggers are called "HOBO") are opportunistically deployed in sea turtle nests on Keewaydin Island by Conservancy interns throughout the turtle nesting season. The study began after the Australian pine project to determine whether removing the pines affected incubation temperatures/sex ratios. 

nest temps w precip 250The study has continued in effort to examine long term temperature trends and the role environmental factors (rain, air temperature, storm events, climate change) play in determining hatchling sex. Reference loggers are also deployed in the sand along Keewaydin to record temperatures throughout the nesting season. For the past several years, loggers have also been deployed on Cape Romano so sand temperatures can be compared to Keewaydin. In 2013, Sea turtle license plate funds made it possible to include Sea Oat Island in the comparative study.

Partnership: Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Why it's Important: Keewaydin appears to be producing male hatchlings regularly which makes it a very important nesting ground. Nests on the east coast of Florida are producing mainly female biased clutches so Keewaydin is supplying the South Florida Nesting Subpopulation with much needed males. This is one of the longest and most intensive incubation temperature studies of its kind and is contributing invaluable data into the professional community. The data are also being used to educate the public on the anthropogenic and environmental factors that influence sea turtle nests. Data were published in 2008 and have been presented at several of the Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation conferences. 

As of July 2018, 1,139 temperature data loggers have been deployed in sea turtle nests with the help of Conservancy interns.

Data Logger Website

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