Interactive Marine Life Exhibit Unveiled

Rookery Bay Research Reserve has unveiled a new, 180-gallon marine life exhibit at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center.

More than a dozen species of marine animals are now on display and available for guests of all ages to discover during regular visiting hours.

“The opportunity to observe and interact with a pygmy sea cucumber, horseshoe crab or lightning whelk provides guests with an intimate connection to our natural environment,” said Keith Laakkonen, Reserve director. “This hands-on, interpretive tank will provide an immersive experience for thousands of students and visitors.”

The new exhibit includes a partitioned, state of-the-art flow-through system, which improves water quality and enables visitors to interact with animals throughout the day. The imaginative, Florida west coast-themed tank has live sand on the bottom and view-through windows along the side, adding opportunities for guests to observe the diversity of species in the exhibit from different angles.

The 180-gallon display is designed to look and feel like Rookery Bay Reserve’s natural environment with detailed rock formations and a mangrove-themed overflow box to cover the filtration components. In addition to self guided engagement with these animals, docent led programs will also be scheduled throughout the day.

“As we celebrate 40 years of coastal conservation we remain committed to bringing new and improved opportunities to build local knowledge and respect for our beaches, our mangrove forests and estuarine waters. The more engaged our community members and visitors are, the more likely we are to appreciate, enjoy and protect this remarkable ecosystem for future generations,” said Laakkonen.

The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth 6 to 12, and free for Friends of Rookery Bay members and children under 6. The Environmental Learning Center is located at 300 Tower Road, off Collier Boulevard between Naples and Marco Island.

Programs, Tours and Events

Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open 9 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and offers a two-story visitor center, art gallery, gift shop and nature trail with viewing platform. Themed naturalist programs offered daily on topics such as manatees, sharks, sea turtles, marine life touch tank and more. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids6 – 12, and free for kids under six and Friends of Rookery Bay members. Located at 300 Tower Road, one mile south of the intersection of US41 and Collier Boulevard. Learn more, or register for events, at

Art Classes

Learn how to draw or paint from master artist, author and instructor Lee Hammond through week-long or half-day open studio classes.Classes cover a variety of modes and styles with a focus on animals and landscapes. Hammond is a police composite artist, holds licenses to paint pictures of NASCAR drivers and has published more than 30 art instruction books that have sold more than 1 million copies. Check the calendarfor dates.

May 3, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Homeschool Day at Rookery Bay

Estuaries top to bottom: Curious about what lives underneath the waves? Ever wonder about how microscopic plankton are connected to sharks? Students will use microscopes to identify different species of plankton and learn about their roles in the estuarine ecosystem. We’ll then head to the top trophic level to learn about sharks; what species are here and why some sharks are considered to be indicator species. Depending on the age a story time or trail walk will also be included. This opportunity is limited to a maximum of 30 students ages 7-14.Cost is $15 ($10 for members), includes one child and one adult. Each additional child is $15 ($10 for members). Price includes admission to the Environmental Learning Center for the day.

May 5 – July 15

Lee Hammond Art Exhibition

The art gallery at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is featuring the works of Lee Hammond, the Environmental Learning Center’s Artist in Residence. Hammond’s exhibit will feature a selection of her works in graphite, watercolor and acrylic including animals, flowers, birds and butterflies. May 15, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Essentials of Digital Photography Workshop If you want to get the best pictures possible, and truly understand your camera’s features, the Essentials of Digital Photography: How to get the most from your digital camera workshop is for you. This class covers the essentials of your digital camera. You will learn how to use your camera’s shutter, aperture, ISO control and the drive modes to create images with impact and creativity. No previous camera or photography experience is necessary, just a desire to learn. Sonny Saunders has over 35 years of experience in photography and instruction and is renowned for his ability to communicate to a wide variety of students. This class will be offered monthly throughout the summer – check the calendar for additional dates.

June 5 – 9, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Summer Institute for Marine Science

Budding scientists are invited to discover our unique coastal environment with Rookery Bay staff and local researchers! This week-long camp brings students into the field to experience concepts in ecology, marine biology, sustainability, and citizen science. Program is designed for students who have completed 7th or 8th grade with an interest in marine science. Space is limited -contact Jeannine Windsor at 239.530.5989 for details.

June 6, 2017, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

CTP: Green Industries Best Management Practices – English

The Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Quality by the Green Industries program, commonly known as the “Green Industries Best Management Practices” was jointly developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and the private industries related to landscape maintenance, called the “green industries.” This training is required by the City of Naples, Collier County and the City of Marco Island for landscapers to legally work within their limits and by most neighboring municipalities in Southwest Florida. This class fulfills the statewide Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certificate Program requirement issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This class is offered in Spanish on June 20.

June 13, 2017 – June 14, 2017, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop

This workshop is opento all teachers around thecountry: any school, anysubject, grades 6-8. Thecontent of the workshopwill be based on NOAA’sEstuaries 101 Middle Schoolcurriculum and will likely focuson topics such as: sharks,birds, plankton, invasive species, and water quality. We will spendeach morning in the field, getting our feet wet exploring the Reserve.Afternoons will be inside, meeting staff and learning about activitiesyou can adapt for your classroom.

June 16 – August 4, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Kids FREE Fridays!

This popular summereducation at Rookery BayEnvironmental LearningCenter program providesFREE admission for childrenages 12 and younger who areaccompanied by a payingadult. We recommend a ratioof no more than three kids peradult to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience. Pre-registration isnot necessary. Adults must pay at door ($5, free for members). Thissummer’s theme is Animals of the Reserve! Scheduled activitiesinclude: Story Time, Creature Feature, Crafts and Activities, FacePainting, and Nature Films. Food trucks will be onsite from 11 a.m. – 1p.m. featuring sandwiches, salads, and snacks!

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