visit the learning center

event list

kayak and boat tours

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.

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. 

StoryMap1940 2014 4x4Changing Shorelines: 
Seventy Years of Island Dynamics

Story-mapping is a cool new way of using technology to see geographical changes over time. Follow the link below to see a story map depicting shoreline changes in the reserve between 1940 and 2014. The images tell a powerful story.



Access the map here.


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 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

Go to top