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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.

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.

Interactive Map

Interactive Map

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.


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



Keewaydin-98-14-2-400Reserve staff use GIS (Geographic Information System) technology to protect resources, guide restoration efforts, conduct research and monitoring projects, make management decisions and produce educational maps.


Sea Turtle Incubation Temperature Study

Sea Turtle Temperature Incubation –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. The 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.

Data Logger Website

Visiting Scientists

Researchers from around the world have conducted studies at the Reserve. This research greatly enhances the ability of the Reserve to manage its natural resources by drawing on the expertise of these individuals. Current Visiting Scientist research includes the study of invasive Burmese pythons, invasive downy rose myrtle, native box turtles, and the history of intense hurricanes. To conduct research within Reserve boundaries, you must fill out and submit the Visiting Scientist Form.



Rookery Bay Reserve has various facilities available for use by Visiting Scientists. The Research wing of the Headquarters site 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.


dormsDormitory rooms are available at the Shell Island Road Field Station in south Naples and the 10,000 Islands Field Station in Goodland. The Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc., a non-profit citizen support organization for RBNERR, 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.

Fee Donations

  • $20 per student per night
  • $30 per non-student per night
  • A $25 cleaning deposit per group is required, returnable upon departure if the dormitory is left clean. Please provide this in the form of a separate payment with your rental fee donation.

Payment must be received at least two weeks in advance. Cash or check only. Checks should be made payable to Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc. or FORB. Payment can be made at RBNERR Headquarters Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Rental fee donations may also be mailed to the following address: FORB, c/o RBNERR, Attn: Dorm Facilities Donation, 300 Tower Road, Naples, Florida 34113.

 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 investigator privileges.  Thank you for your cooperation.


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