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mangrove conferenceRookery Bay Reserve hosted a workshop for nearly forty mangrove scientists and other professionals on December 8-9. Organized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the purpose of the workshop was to discuss mangrove conservation and research efforts of significance to Florida and regional mangrove systems.

Mangrove forests are important habitat for fish, shrimp and crabs, and thus an important food source for many seabirds and wading birds in Florida, and also larger fish of commercial and recreational importance. Rookery Bay Reserve protects more than 26,000 acres of mangrove forest considered to be among the most pristine tracts remaining in the United States. Dozens of independent studies of mangroves have taken place in the reserve.

"Rookery Bay Reserve is a living laboratory," said Rookery Bay Reserve director Keith Laakkonen. "Our collective efforts to better understand mangrove ecology and response to environmental stressors can help guide research, restoration, and management efforts in the reserve, and statewide."

The Mangrove Working Group, which was established at the inaugural workshop in 2014, also includes the National Park Service, South Florida Water Management District, University of South Florida, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Geologic Survey. Rookery Bay Reserve, Coastal Resources Group, and other group partners have been working cooperatively on priority projects identified at the first meeting.

The workshop included meetings and presentations followed by a field trip to the mangrove restoration and research site called Fruit Farm Creek, off State Road 29 near Goodland. The group will evaluate the progress of the restoration efforts that got underway in 2012.

See photos from the field trip on our Facebook page.

fire-250Rookery Bay Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters. Although most of the area is aquatic or marine, it includes a variety of ecosystems from mangroves to pine flatwoods, freshwater wetlands, and rare xeric oak habitats in high relict dune ridges. Because of the diversity of habitats and elevations, the proximity to developed land, and associated changes in hydrology, the prescribed fire program at Rookery Bay Reserve is an important tool for preserving native biodiversity.

Learn more about the reserve's prescribed fire program

Greg Curry is the "Burn Boss" and will explain how fire is used to protect wildlife and people in our January Lunch & Learn lecture on January 5. Hot lunch by Carrabba's is included for $15 ($10 for FORB members).



Explore. Enjoy.  Protect


The countdown to give has begun!

Once again, the Friends are participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day of philanthropy through social media. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the charitable season begins when people focus on their end-of-year giving to boost the efficacy of non-profit groups just like the Friends.

The Friends is a volunteer support organization assisting Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve meet its scientific goals as well as care for its 110,000 acres. Declining state and federal revenues have threatened to eliminate some of the Reserve's monitoring and education programs. There is no better time than this special Tuesday to make a gift to the Friends. Your donation will help us address the challenges of managing our coastal lands and waters as well as generate community involvement through outreach efforts and volunteer activities.

Gifts from #GivingTuesday will enable the Friends to continue connecting people with Southwest Florida's dynamic estuarine environment.

Please give generously! Help us make a difference.


To connect people with Southwest Florida's dynamic estuarine environment.


Many Marco residents know that Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve protects 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters on southwest Florida's coast, but few are aware that this outdoor classroom and living laboratory also hosts hundreds of research projects undertaken by DEP staff, graduate research fellows, and visiting scientists from around the world to answer scientific questions about wildlife, plants and habitats. The results of these projects contribute to the Reserve's overall understanding of local trends and often help guide future management and restoration efforts.

One local scientist studying in the reserve is Dr. Jeff Schmid, Environmental Research Manager with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. His ongoing research is focusing on the Kemp's ridley turtle, the most endangered and also the most abundant sea turtle species in the reserve's waters.

Schmid's in-water studies aim to characterize sea turtle aggregations inhabiting the Ten Thousand Islands estuarine complex within the Rookery Bay Reserve. "This is a very unique, collaborative project," said Schmid. "Our efforts are focused on the Kemp's ridley, but we catch other species such as loggerhead and green turtles." The collaborative research is multi-faceted and includes studies of Kemp's ridley diet, trophic ecology and sex determination. Some Kemp's ridleys have also been instrumented with satellite transmitters to help track the turtles and understand how they use the Ten Thousand Islands estuary and surrounding waters.

bull sharkRookery Bay Reserve fisheries biologist Pat O'Donnell and a team of volunteers spend many hours on the water every month catching and tagging sharks using estuarine bays as nurseries. Sometimes the hard work pays off, and when a tagged shark is recaptured it provides clues to how it has used the habitats in the Reserve. Just this week, while monitoring in Fakahatchee Bay, the team captured a few bonnethead sharks and a bull shark, which was tagged in June 2013 in nearby Faka-Union Bay. Since that time, this shark has grown from about 40 inches in length to almost five feet, about 13 inches in two and a half years.

See more photos on Facebook.

Learn more about the shark monitoring program.

Nearly 100 guests enjoyed live and silent auctions, raffles, great food from Michelbob's Ribs's, and more. The Friends of Rookery Bay and Coastal Conservation Association Florida were able to raise money thanks to the anglers and generous sponsors including Isles of Collier Preserve Minto, Marco Island Water Sports, Kesagami Wilderness Lodge, First Florida Integrity Bank, and Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club. The event raised $32,000 for the charities. See reception and auction photos on facebook.

Grand slam winnersThe tournament was a great success. According to event co-organizer Al Calvario, "the weather was a bit windy and slow moving tides. Water temperature was 83 in the back which kept the fish on the outside edges. Tough day but lots of fish were caught." 

The tournament has an interesting format, resulting in a difficult choice for several angler teams. "Anglers had to make a decision on what ten fish they would submit. Being that you can only win one prize many anglers were left with a hard decision to make, not knowing what other anglers submitted," said event coordinator Adam Miller of CCA Florida. Two teams pulled up to his check-in location at the same time. Miller said both had a slam but would not reveal to the other team the size of their redfish. After contemplating for almost 30 minutes one of the teams decided to turn in a score sheet full of trout because they were unsure if they would be eligible to win the slam. They did this because they were confident they would win one of the trout categories. "Well, it turns out that if they would have submitted their biggest snook and redfish they would have won the more prestigious category of the Inshore Slam. They still placed in the trout division though," he concluded.

See tournament winner photos on facebook. Below find the winning teams for each division:

The Reserve's Education Department uses social science to develop and deliver its field-based STEM programs for students in Collier County, Florida. This research was conducted with grant funding through NOAA B-WET and included a Market Analysis of environmental education programs in the region and an Audience Needs Assessment of kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers.

View/download Market Analysis

View/download Needs Assessment

Learn more about the reserve's education programs

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