Mangrove Symposium | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


Like all Research Reserves, Rookery Bay Research Reserve conducts monitoring according to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s (NERRS) System Wide Monitoring Program. Research staff also monitors wildlife and habitats with local significance. Staff partner with local, state, and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to augment monitoring efforts.

System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP)

SWMP was developed on a national platform to coordinate long-term monitoring programs across all 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves. The Rookery Bay Research Reserve SWMP program measures water conditions, nutrients, and chlorophyll (an estimate of micro-algae) at five sites, with an additional weather monitoring station at our headquarters. Our habitat monitoring and Sentinel Site stations will also be incorporated through the SWMP program.

Learn about the SWMP Program and access data and metadata

SWMP Monitoring | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Habitat Change Hurricane Irma | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Habitat Change

Rookery Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands are dynamic systems.  We monitor changes to coastal structure and habitat that are impacted by storms, human use, or sea level change.  We are currently establishing the first Sentinel Site in south Florida.  Key contact:  Jill Schmid.

Fish Populations

Originally formed as a monitoring component of the downstream effects of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project, the Ten Thousand Islands fish and shark population studies have grown to a multi-decadal assessment of juvenile fish populations and habitat use. Biologist Pat O’Donnell runs monthly sampling efforts with a team of dedicated volunteers and graduate students. Scientists from the Marine Spatial Ecology division of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science are analyzing 20-year fish trawl dataset and conducting an acoustic monitoring study of commercially relevant fish.
Shark Population Study | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Sea Turtle Monitoring | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Sea Turtles

Rookery Bay Research Reserve resource management specialists work in cooperation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Collier County Natural Resources and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to preserve this threatened species. With much assistance from volunteers and summer interns, staff patrol the beaches of Sea Oat Island, Cape Romano, Kice Island, and other islands in the Ten Thousand Islands five days a week during nesting season to locate nests and place cages over them so that the eggs will be protected from predation by raccoons.


Since 2000, Rookery Bay staff has annually monitored coastal nesting colonies within the Reserve. In 2015, the Reserve’s partnership with Audubon Florida afforded a full time Audubon staff member to help monitor and protect these birds with an office at Rookery Bay Research Reserve. This long-term data is used protect critical nesting habitat and at the beginning of each nesting season to determine the location of potential colony sites and guide the timing and placement of protective posting and educational signage.

Likewise, Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff work with Audubon Florida to conduct bi-monthly shorebird surveys from north Keewaydin Island down to Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area (near Cape Romano).

Bird Monitoring | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Help Make a Difference!

Volunteer at Rookery Bay

Hundreds of volunteers play a vital role in the preservation, restoration and management of our mangrove estuary. Opportunities are endless. Training is provided. A passion for our coastal environment is a must. Join one of our monthly volunteer orientations and learn about supporting our coastal treasure, Rookery Bay Research Reserve!