Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides important habitat for beach-nesting birds including least terns, black skimmers and Wilson's plover. Below is the list of areas that are closed this year in cooperation with Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. All are considered "partial" closings with exception to Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area, which is completely closed to all landings. A "partial" closing involves shorebird signs tied together with string and flagging around an active nesting area. People may stand or walk outside of the signs but may not cross the string to prevent accidentally stepping on eggs or chicks. Even the experienced eye can miss hidden nests.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff and partners from the Florida Park Service D-4 VIPER burn team, Collier Seminole State Park and FWC Naples office burned 154 acres of scrubby pine flatwoods in the heart of the reserve. The burn effectively reduced the fuel loads and cleared out the understory, providing access for deer, gopher tortoise and other animals that rely on native grasses that are crowded out when the forest thickens. Working with partners is crucial to ensuring the proper resources are employed for maximum safety of staff and adjacent property.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve is partnering with Duke University on a Science Collaborative project to incorporate ecosystem services into coastal decision making, management and research. During their recent stakeholder meeting, representatives from the City of Naples, Naples Botanical Garden, Coastal Resources Group, Rookery Bay Research Reserve, and Conservancy of Southwest Florida provided input on a framework to examine how mangrove restoration could change ecosystem services provided by the restored habitat. This framework will be used to better understand how proposed mangrove restoration can increase flood protection for adjacent communities, impact property values, enhance key sportfish populations, or provide a case study for education and outreach activities. Once the model is finalized it will be published on the project website so that ecosystem service considerations can be incorporated into a future program or a project in the local community.
Last week, environmental specialists Jared and Sarah were checking the trail cameras off Shell Island Road when they came across this lively lady: a 12-foot long, 75-pound Burmese python. She was basking on the road. Their training came in handy: they were able to safely capture her and stow her in a snake bag until scientists with Conservancy of Southwest Florida arrived to take her away. The necropsy they perform on this snake will help us learn more about Burmese python natural history, and specifically, what she has been eating. Learn more about this work.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve and Florida Department of Environmental Protection are working with Live Oak Production Group to produce a full-length documentary film showcasing the reserve for its 40th anniversary. Below is a compilation of short videos produced with the footage captured for the film. The films range in length from two to five minutes each.
Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), in partnership with the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), conducted their second of three field seasons in October 2018 near Naples and Marco Island, to estimate the population size of bottlenose dolphins in the region and to build a photographic-identification catalog of identifiable individuals.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve's first-ever Mangrove Symposium brought together 75 of the brightest minds in mangrove ecology to learn about and discuss topics including ecosystem services, trends and tipping points, adaptive management and restoration ecology, with a tribute to the late Roy "Robin" Lewis, III. The event included plenary and keynote presentations by Drs. Ariel Lugo and Robert Twilley, two "founding fathers" of Rookery Bay mangrove research. There were also a poster session, a robust discussion about a future publication, and field trips to see a restoration site and other mangrove features around Rookery Bay, which is considered the cradle of mangrove research by many.
Reserve staff are incorporating UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) in their research and stewardship efforts. This video was shot by our new equipment during testing on Sand Hill, which is one of the highest points in Collier County at about 22 feet above sea level! It is an ancient sand dune relic from the Pleistocene Era. This site was chosen to test the drone's effectiveness and manueverability in high winds. This equipment will improve our ability to safely and accurately map habitats, and also digitize the effects of prescribed burns, as opposed to taking photos from an airplane which is far more costly and logistically challenging. The two big white buildings you can see in the distance are the Collier County Government Center, and you can also see the Naples skyline toward the end. Enjoy the view!