Rookery Bay Research Reserve's own Team OCEAN was presented with the Guy Bradley Award from Florida Audubon during the annual 2017 Florida Audubon Assembly in St. Augustine on October 21. Each year, this prestigious award recognizes an individual for their extraordinary contribution to the protection and conservation efforts of Florida's birdlife. While Team OCEAN volunteers conduct outreach and education on natural resource protection in many areas of Rookery Bay Research Reserve, it was to their efforts at Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) that the award was directed. Read more about the CWA designation.
In August, retired Rookery Bay Reserve director (and former Friends of Rookery Bay executive director) Gary Lytton was invited to participate in the designation of the nation’s newest National Estuarine Research Reserve in Hawaii. Lytton attended the event on behalf of the Friends of Rookery Bay, at the invitation of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association. The newest addition to the national system is located on the island of Oahu, and will be managed through a collaborative partnership involving Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology, the State of Hawaii, and NOAA.
Hurricane Irma’s eye wall passed over Cape Romano within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve before making landfall on Marco Island on September 10. Fortunately, the brunt of the storm was absorbed by barrier islands and thousands of acres of mangrove forest protected within the Reserve’s boundary.
Mangroves and other coastal habitats serve as a first line of defense during rough weather events, helping to slow storm surge, disperse wave energy, and reduce shoreline erosion on beaches and riverbanks. Coastal habitats, mangroves especially, also help protect homes and businesses from floating and windborne storm-created debris, contributing to reduced storm severity on developed areas.
The tropical system that came across Florida at the end of July dumped nearly 18” of rain in some parts of the Reserve. This large amount of fresh water, called a “pulse,” is clearly visible in the salinity patterns recorded by our datasondes. It took a few days for the pulse to make its way off the land however, the overall salinity level in Faka Union Bay continues to be slightly lower than it was before the rain event. Learn more about our System-wide Monitoring program here - https://rookerybay.org/learn/research/mapping-monitoring/system-wide-monitoring-program.html
It was a banner night for the shark research team on August 13, with a total of 31 sharks caught in Pumpkin Bay! This beats the previous record of 25 sharks last October. Of the 31 sharks caught, 21 were bulls three months old or less, 6 were adult bonnetheads and 4 were juvenile lemon sharks. The largest shark, an immature bull shark, 965 mm in length or 95.5cm or about 3ft. Another bull was a recapture: it was recorded in Faka Union Bay last month. This information is instrumental in helping us gain an understanding of population size and habitat use in relation to hydrologic restoration in the Ten Thousand Islands watershed.
In 1999, Rookery Bay Reserve researchers began fish demographic assessments to gain an understanding of fish, and specifically sharks', use of estuaries as nurseries and their relative distributions in relation to hydrologic restoration in the Ten Thousand Islands watershed. Gill nets and baited lines are used to catch sharks and sawfish to produce a baseline database of community composition and age ranges. All sharks and sawfish are tagged before release so that we can continue to learn about habitat use as the fish grow or age.
Please help us welcome Jared Franklin as the most recent addition to Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff! He joins us as an Environmental Specialist in the Stewardship department. His responsibilities include invasive plant and animal identification and control, permit review and prescribed fire. Originally from Torrington, CT, Jared received his Bachelor's of Science degree in Environmental Science from Messiah College in Grantham, PA. He moved to Florida in 2016 and most recently worked as a Biological Aide with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast Refuge Complex.