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As soon as she moved from Colorado at the age of 15, Marissa Kelly fell in love with the environment of South West Florida. Inspired by the diversity of our environment, she volunteered at Rookery Bay while in high school. She also completed an internship with stewardship, along with assisting in sea turtle research while attending college at Florida Gulf Coast University.marissa 250

least-terns NAPLES, Fla. –Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in cooperation with Audubon Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), is working to protect nesting habitat for least terns, black skimmers and Wilson's plovers at the Second-Chance Sandbar. Beginning March 1 the sandbar, which is designated as a Critical Wildlife Area by the FWC, will be closed to allow for more successful nesting of these rare species.

“Protecting this habitat during the nesting season increases the likelihood of successful breeding,” said Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “In 2017, least terns in Collier County had the best productivity in the state, and we're hoping for even better results this year."

net 250Pat O’Donnell hardly ever pulls up an empty trawl net. As a fish biologist working in the Ten Thousand Islands for the past 20 years, Pat has seen a lot of changes. When he resumed his trawling program on Sept. 30, two weeks after Hurricane Irma swirled over Southwest Florida, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

sanddollars250Check out this amazing natural phenomenon on Marco Island’s “Residents Beach!” Millions of young sand dollars can be seen in the surf. These sand dollars are actually keyhole urchins (named for their keyhole-shaped openings), and are related to sea urchins and sea stars. When alive, sand dollars are covered with a brown fuzzy covering but after the animal dies, the fuzz falls off and the skeleton turns white, bleached by the sun.

Spring has sprung here in southwest Florida although recently it has begun to feel more like summer. Wildlife is noticing the changes too, but slightly longer daylight hours are likely providing more cues than the unseasonably warm temperatures. Eastern screech owls seem to be paying close attention to changing seasons and are flying into nesting season in high gear. “Screechers” nest in cavities of hollowed out trees but they also will readily move into a human provided nest box if better options aren’t available.

dave shell 250Thursday February 1, 2018 was an unusual day for us communication interns here at Rookery Bay Research Reserve. We got the opportunity to ditch our desks and join two staff members on a boating trip to a nearby mud flat. The purpose of this boating trip was to collect invertebrates (animals without backbones)  to be re-homed in the Learning Center’s touch tanks.

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