Rookery Bay News

Rookery Bay’s Keith Laakkonen Selected as New President of National Reserve Association

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is pleased to announce Director Keith Laakkonen’s selection as the new President of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (

For the past two years, Keith served as Vice President for this non-profit association that promotes and advances the work of 29 protected coastal sites across the country making up the National Estuarine Research Reserve system. Together, these Reserves encompass more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitats including mangroves, marshes, beaches and forests. 

As director of Rookery Bay Research Reserve, Keith is responsible for administration and supervision of the 110,000-acres and more than 30 employees involved in research, education and coastal stewardship. Keith also serves as the state’s regional administrator for aquatic preserves in Southwest Florida, with oversight for field offices and staff in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Estero Bay. Keith’s interests include watershed management and restoration, species management, wildlife ecology, prescribed fire management, hydrologic restoration, exotic plant and animal management, and environmental education and outreach. He began his career as an intern conducting research on American alligators with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit in Gainesville. With more than 20 years of experience, Keith worked for the Town of Fort Myers Beach, Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve, St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic and Buffer Preserve, and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve. He was also the Stewardship Coordinator at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve from 2005 to 2007.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida in 1998 and recently completed his Master’s Degree at Florida Gulf Coast University with a focus on sea-level rise policy. Keith is also an avid birder and fisherman. 

Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.

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