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Over the past few weeks I found a couple of unusual animals in my education trawls. Both of my new friends were caught in the same net pull. One was something that, while rare, I’ve encountered a handful of times. The second critter is something that I’ve seen before, but never caught alive in any of the hundreds of trawls I’ve done.

six arms 250The first animal is a common or brown spiny sea star. What makes this one uncommon, however, is the fact that it has six arms rather than five! Also, close examination of the photograph revealed that the sea star appears to have multiple madreporites, which is the organ that they use to control the amount of water in their bodies. They usually only have one. It seems the extra leg may have emerged after the body got damaged, but this is just a guess. One other thing that is exciting about this sea star is that it is the first one that I’ve encountered in the backwaters following hurricane Irma!

owl watch 250Nesting season is in full swing for the burrowing owls here in southwest Florida. I recently joined Alli Smith, a graduate student from the University of Florida, to assist with owl monitoring efforts taking place on Marco Island. Alli is the research manager for Audubon of the Western Everglades, and heads up the volunteer-run program OWL WATCH. Alli worked at Rookery Bay Research Reserve last year as an avian intern with Audubon.

adapt doc 250  What: Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience Workshop

When: May 31, 2018

Where: The Conservancy of Southwest Florida
1495 Smith Preserve Way
Naples, FL 34102

How: Cost is $20, Register online by May 17

(click image at left for flyer PDF)

Piping Plover 250WHAT: Breakfast with the Birds Lecture Series

WHEN: May 15, June 19, July 17 and Aug. 14
9 – 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center
300 Tower Road
Naples, FL 34113

Register, cost is $15 (Friends of Rookery Bay members enjoy 10 percent discount) and includes pastries, juice and coffee.

Red knotsThings outside are starting to change! Have you started to notice? It’s a slight change every day, but our days are getting longer and our nights are getting shorter. This does not just affect us humans either. The equinoxes are one of the many signals flora and fauna around the world use to time their annual cycles.

I have been monitoring shorebirds using the many different habitats within Rookery Bay Reserve this winter. For the most part, I have been counting similar breakdowns of diversity (number of different species) and abundance (number of individuals) over the whole season. These last few weeks though, I have begun to see some shifts in my survey data as well as in the birds themselves!

mangrovetour 250Research reserve staff visited the Fruit Farm Creek mangrove restoration area near Goodland with our NOAA liaison Matt Chasse and Florida Coastal Office director Kevin Claridge.

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